I didn’t believe Amazon Alexa was that helpful in a car until I drove the Ford Expedition

A massive screen helps you feel in control of every feature and setting in the 2022 Ford Expedition Limited 4×4. After driving one for a week, I can tell you there is only one option that might even work a little better, even if it has a ways to go.

Amazon Alexa is like the 15.5-inch version of a voicebot. Highly capable, easy to use, and powerful, the robot has been around for a while but I found it easy to control more than just my music in the Expedition. Instead of reaching forward and touching the controls, I was able to ask Alexa to adjust the temperature and fan speed. 

I had to be specific, though. I would say “Alexa, increase the temperature by two degrees” and watch as the climate control adjusted itself. When I asked to increase fan speed, that also worked by voice. It was also easy to ask for a new playlist, adjust the volume, and control a handful of other features in the vehicle. I’m lazy, so not having to reach for the controls saved a little time and effort. Of course, Alexa can also do much more than that on its own.

I also asked Alexa about the weather, and the results appeared on the screen. When I asked about football scores, I also noticed the summary would appear on the 15.5-inch screen. 

This type of easy control means you can focus on driving and not ever have to look at the screen, as nice and colorful as it is. I found, on most drives, that using Alexa meant I could control most of the basic functions. I also tried an experiment.

As a writer, I tend to come up with article ideas and topics constantly. During my test, I asked Alexa to take notes about articles and even dictated the opening section once. (I found Alexa would cut me off after a few sentences, though. It’s not possible to dictate the entire article.) I set reminders for myself, asked about current events and news, and felt like I had the world at my fingertips (not literally, but just by voice commands). It was amazing.

And…has a ways to go. I noticed Alexa works for common vehicle functions like music, temperature, and fan speed but is not able to let you adjust things like cruise control by voice. I suppose that could be dangerous, since you could say “drive 55” and the bot might think you meant 85. I could also see how future cars will help drivers avoid that problem. Alexa could ask for verification, or perhaps only increase speed by 5 miles-per-hour.

I wasn’t able to turn on the headlights, lock the doors, or ask about tire pressure. I wished Alexa could do almost everything in the car except drive (and maybe even do that as well) but I also see why Alexa can’t control some of those functions. If Alexa can lock and unlock the doors, it could be abused as well, maybe by recording my voice asking Alexa to do that. It’s one thing to play a song using Alexa or adjust the temp, but allowing Alexa to actually adjust your speed, brake for you, or even swerve out of the way of an oncoming vehicle is a lot to ask.

I do think it’s coming. There’s no technical reason Alexa could not be connected to the accelerator and brakes, even if there is a societal reason. We’re not quite ready for that, and it’s probably just as easy to use our feet. For now, Alexa is a smart ally in the Expedition and shows how the future might unfold. It might take a bit longer than I’ve been expecting.