Hannah Keshishian
Hannah Keshishian is an Automotive Analyst at Mintel. She provides insights into the automotive industry and focuses on emerging consumer trends, industry happenings, and the latest vehicle advancements.

Analyst for Mintel’s US Automotive Reports Hannah Keshishian recently gave the Echo Auto a test run during a road trip from Chicago to Michigan. Here, she shares her review with analysis on why Amazon needs to rethink its strategy in order to increase consumer adoption.

Consumers aren’t fond of in-vehicle technology that distracts them while they are driving. According to Mintel research on automotive innovations, three in five consumers feel that the latest technology distracts drivers from keeping their eyes on the road. When Amazon developed Echo Auto, their intention was to provide driver assistance. However, this is one product where Amazon missed the mark.

Taking the Echo Auto for a test run

Setting up Echo Auto is as easy as setting up a home assistant. Users need to download the Alexa app, which provides simple step-by-step instructions. The Echo Auto can be mounted to the vehicle’s air vents, but the device has trouble stabilizing when the vehicle hit any stretch of road that wasn’t smooth. On multiple occasions, if the vehicle with the Echo Auto hit a bump, the device would dismount.

A 12-hour round-trip to Michigan (from Chicago) proved to be ample time to test the road trip feature and see if it could provide entertainment. To engage the feature, users need to say “Hey Alexa, let’s go on a road trip.” It’s best to get acquainted with this feature before taking it on the road, as the tool boasts many options that could distract the driver. In terms of how it handles navigation, a driver might be better off using a GPS device or maps on their phone. When the Echo Auto was asked to navigate to the nearest grocery store – one that was within .2 miles – the device provided directions to a store that was 10 miles away.

One-third of consumers say they would rather use their smartphone for navigation instead of their vehicle infotainment center.

Unfortunately, Echo Auto unintentionally requires users to keep their eyes on the device rather than the road. If drivers were to mass adopt the Echo Auto, it could lead to an increase in distracted drivers. Amazon will need to find a way to have their device appear on the vehicle infotainment system, rather than utilize a smartphone. Technology companies looking to implement their devices in vehicles should learn from Amazon’s mistakes and ensure that if they are going to create a driver assistance tool, they should create a device that can enhance existing in-vehicle technology rather than one that operates adjacent to it.

What we think

After spending significant time with the Echo Auto, it’s safe to say the device feels more like a useless back-seat driver than anything close to being considered driver assistance. Car buyers looking to integrate Amazon into their car should hold out for future generations of the device.

That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost for the Echo Auto. Nearly two in five consumers say that they’d like to use their personal assistant in their vehicle according to Mintel research on automotive innovations. Considering that one-third of consumers say they would rather use their smartphone for navigation instead of their vehicle infotainment center, there is room for the Echo Auto to live as a device-agnostic navigation tool for drivers. While the Echo Auto’s first generation may not be the success that Amazon is hoping for, future generations of the device have the opportunity to live as an operating system agnostic tool for drivers to rely on.

Disclaimer: I was not given the Amazon Echo Auto in exchange for this review. I submitted an invitation request which was granted by Amazon, andpaid for the Echo Auto at a discounted price.