DETROIT — General Motors will enable U.S. owners of 2018 and newer model vehicles to download Amazon's Alexa digital assistant software to control navigation, streaming media and phones starting next year, the companies said on Wednesday.

The agreement gives Amazon access to millions of vehicles, and a substantial expansion of its Alexa franchise. Embedding Alexa in vehicles is just one element of a broad strategy Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos is pursuing to extend the e-commerce company's reach into transportation.

For GM, the deal is the latest in a series of moves to embrace widely-used technology industry brands. For years, GM and other automakers tried to develop infotainment technology in-house using automotive suppliers. But customers have panned the results, and instead embraced digital assistants such as Alexa, Google Voice or Apple's Siri.

Earlier this month, GM said it would embed Alphabet's Google technology in the dashboards of vehicles sold outside of China starting in 2021. 

Amazon also has a version of the Echo device called Echo Auto that can be added to any car to give it Alexa capability.

Santiago Chamorro, GM's vice president for Global Connected Services, said customers ultimately will be able to choose which voice concierge service to use — the car's standard voice controls, Alexa, Google or an app embedded in a smartphone.

"We believe in a future where the customer has options," said Amazon's Ned Curic, vice president of Alexa Auto at Amazon.

Owners of GM vehicles will be able to download Alexa software to their vehicles during the first half of 2020, GM said.

GM's shift to Google and Amazon to provide software for interactive dashboards has battered traditional suppliers of vehicle infotainment and navigation systems. Shares in GM in-dash navigation services supplier Telenav have lost half their value since GM announced its deal with Alphabet.

Meanwhile, Amazon also announced that actor Samuel L. Jackson and other celebrities will voice speech for Alexa, while the voice aid will also be built into a new wearable line of earbuds, eyeglasses and a ring.

The news came along with announcements of a new range of voice-controlled Echo speakers, a multilingual mode for Alexa and an additional privacy feature for deleting voice recordings regularly.

Amazon's celebrity voice feature will cost $0.99, Senior Vice President David Limp said at an event in Seattle. Jackson's is the only celebrity voice Amazon has disclosed so far.

 


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