Disclosure: Ridester.com is supported by our users. We may recieve compensation from the companies whose products we write about, test, or review. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own. Please refer to our Affiliate Disclosure for more information.
With passengers in your vehicle, as well as cars and pedestrians all around you, safety is always paramount on the road. In order to keep both hands on the wheel, you need car accessories to help you keep your hands off your smartphone during your full days of driving. Amazon’s new Echo Auto is the latest product that’s creating a safer and more enjoyable rideshare experience.
With drivers increasingly using Siri, Bixby, and all of the best navigation apps for hands-free assistance, it’s easy to see where Alexa, the virtual assistant developed by Amazon, fit into the automotive industry. After over a year of development, Amazon has finally released its first Echo device built especially for in-car usage. Now, you can depend on Alexa to help you at home and while you’re earning.
In this article, we’ll further describe how Echo Auto works and what it can help you with. We’ll also do a rundown of its major pros and cons, so you can decide if you’re ready to purchase.
- What Is Amazon’s Echo Auto?
- How Does Echo Auto Work?
- 5 Best Echo Auto Features for Rideshare Drivers
- Amazon Echo Auto Pros and Cons
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Amazon’s Echo Auto?
Echo Auto is a voice assistant that’s designed for you to use in your car. Currently retailing for $49.99, the device is equipped with eight microphones and far-field speech recognition to hear you over the sound of your AC, music, and road noise. When you call its wake word — “Alexa” or “Echo” — it’ll light up just like the device you’re used to keeping in your living room.
In this sense, the device is basically a downsized version of the original, home-based Amazon Echo devices. It still enables you to make calls, set reminders, play music, and much more just by connecting to the Alexa app, but it’s significantly smaller. The iPod-sized Echo Auto is the perfect size to connect to compatible air vents or simply set on top of your dashboard during your drive.
In addition to the main Echo Auto device, your product will come with an in-car power adapter, a micro-USB cable, and a quick start guide. It also comes with an optional air vent mount and an auxiliary cable, which must be used if your car stereo doesn’t support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.
How Does Echo Auto Work?
Connecting Echo Auto to your vehicle is easy using the accessories provided in your package. All you need to do is plug your device into the auxiliary port, or connect it to your car stereo using Bluetooth, then turn on Bluetooth on your smartphone to connect the device to your Alexa app. Once this process is complete, you can start giving Alexa commands via voice control and hear the device playback through your car speakers.
The Echo Auto does require you to keep your data on at all times when in use. This shouldn’t be a problem for rideshare drivers, since you’re already keeping your data on for your Uber or Lyft app, but be aware that you may use a bit more data than usual because of the device.
5 Best Echo Auto Features for Rideshare Drivers
While Echo Auto’s features aren’t entirely unique from other Alexa devices, there are some features that are particularly well-suited for when you’re on the go. Here are our five favorite functions that the new device offers:
1. Hands-Off Navigation
Just by using voice control, you can get directions from Alexa to just about anywhere, including your pick-up and drop-off destinations. Echo Auto connects with some of the best navigation apps, including Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze to help you get where you need to go as efficiently as possible.
We recommend double checking which app is your default navigation tool on your smartphone before you drive, as this will be the app your device gets real-time directions from.
2. GasBuddy Skill
Echo Auto is equipped with thousands of skills, with one of the most useful being its ability to find the cheapest gas near you.
While you’re driving, you can simply say, “Alexa, ask GasBuddy where the cheapest gas is.” Your voice assistant will then tell you about prices at gas stations in your area based on current data from GasBuddy. This skill can save you hundreds in the long run by helping you decrease your expenses each time you fill up.
3. Music Streaming
Your passengers won’t always want to listen to what’s on the radio. Echo Auto allows you to expand your playlist options by connecting you to a long list of music, podcast, and even audiobook streaming services.
In addition to tuning in to your local radio on command, you can connect to services like Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Music. You and your passengers will have more choices than ever.
4. Hands-Free Calls
With Echo Auto, you can easily start a phone call without touching your smartphone. While this feature likely won’t be much help for calling your passengers — Alexa can’t pull numbers from your rideshare app — it’s a great option when you need to call your child’s daycare or even roadside assistance while you’re still driving.
Echo Auto even has built-in skills for some roadside assistance providers to make your service even easier to access.
5. Mics Off Feature
Occasionally, you may get a rider who is uncomfortable with a device listening in with the ability to record conversations. Echo Auto actually allows you to press the microphone button on the device to immediately shut off its mics. This does prevent you from using the device’s hands-off features during that trip, but it’s a great feature to help you show goodwill toward your riders’ desire for privacy.
Amazon Echo Auto Pros and Cons
If you have a newer car that’s already equipped with its own tech accessories, there may be one major question looming in your mind: Why do I need an Echo Auto? The best answer we can give you is that the Echo Auto can make your driving experience completely hands-free, limiting your interactions on your cell phone or car monitor. However, the device doesn’t exactly provide enough features to make it a complete game-changer by any means.
Echo Auto is infinitely more useful to car owners who have vehicles with limited functions and want to add safe online features to use while driving rideshare passengers around the city. Still, even for owners of older car models, this device isn’t anything fancy. Connecting your smartphone to an AUX cord and cell phone car mount then enabling its built-in voice assistant can help you safely access similar features. Your smartphone may arguably be fancier, since it has a screen, unlike the Echo Auto.
The biggest perk of Echo Auto as a rideshare driver is delighting your passengers with the ability to control their own ride just by saying a wake word and command. This isn’t guaranteed to get you higher tips, but is a great way to keep your five-star rating as long as the rest of the ride goes well. It’s also a generally well-built tool that doesn’t have any known bugs or issues, and is discreet enough for you to avoid car theft, even when it’s left out.
Amazon’s Echo Auto is more of an add-on accessory that you should buy if you have the money to spare or if you have a smart home system at home that you want to easily control between trips. Otherwise, it may not be worth the $50 price tag. You’ll be better off waiting for a sale.
Frequently Asked Questions
Echo Auto is a unique device that allows you to take Amazon Alexa with you on the road. If you still want to learn more before making your final purchasing decision, consider these answers to frequently asked questions:
1. Do I need Amazon Prime to use Echo Auto?
Anyone can use Echo devices, with or without Amazon Prime. The only requirement is that you must have an Amazon account, which you’re likely ordering your device off of anyway.
The biggest difference that Echo Auto users will experience without Amazon Prime is a lack of access to the complete Prime Music library. However, since you’ll still be able to connect to the radio and other music streaming services, this shouldn’t have a major effect on your Echo Auto experience.
2. Is Echo Auto compatible with all cars?
Amazon Echo Auto is compatible with all vehicles that have auxiliary input jacks. However, if you’d prefer to use a Bluetooth connection, these common vehicles won’t be able to pair with your Echo Auto device.
3. Is Echo Auto compatible with all smartphones?
Almost all newer smartphone models, including Androids and iPhones, are compatible with Echo Auto. However, these popular devices won’t be able to connect with Echo on-the-go devices.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
As car manufacturers continue to add tech features to new vehicles, only time will tell whether or not Echo Auto will withstand the test of time. For now, the product is a good option for getting hands-free voice assistance for just about any of your internet or phone-based needs while driving. Bringing Alexa with you as your co-pilot can keep you and your passengers safer, with the added touch of novelty.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more on your next auto accessory, a dash cam can save you thousands when you get into a car accident or get rowdy passengers who damage your vehicle interior. Check out our list of the best dash cams for Uber and Lyft to make your smartest purchase yet.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.