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Strategy Toyota is adding Amazon's Alexa to cars. We've been using Alexa in a car for 6 months and it's the best infotainment system we've ever used.

With a little help from a funny moment involving my 6-year-old daughter, it hit me: Why not put an Echo Dot in my car?

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That's an Echo Dot in a car. play

That's an Echo Dot in a car.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)

Toyota announced this week that Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant found in its line of Echo devices, is coming to Toyota and Lexus cars later this year.

This is great news for people who own compatible vehicles or want to buy one. I've been using an Echo Dot with Alexa in a car for six months, and it is clear that this is the future of car infotainment.

The idea to put an Echo Dot in a car came to me when Amazon put the Echo Dot on sale. My reaction was probably like that of a lot of others: Should I buy another Echo, and if I do, where would I put it?

Then, with a little help from a funny moment involving my 6-year-old daughter, it hit me: Why not put an Echo Dot in my car? So I did, and it turned out to be the best $35 I have spent in a long time.

I'll walk you through how I installed it (it's easy), what I use it for (just about everything), and why it is the best car infotainment system I have ever used (it turned out to be better than I imagined):

This post was originally published in July 2017 and has been updated.

Our family already had three Echos — a regular one in the living room and Dots in the office and master bedroom — that we use for music, controlling various Hue lights and Nest thermostats, maintaining shopping and to-do lists, reordering Amazon items, and other general goofiness. In other words, we were already tight with "Alexa," the Echo's digital assistant.

Our family already had three Echos — a regular one in the living room and Dots in the office and master bedroom — that we use for music, controlling various Hue lights and Nest thermostats, maintaining shopping and to-do lists, reordering Amazon items, and other general goofiness. In other words, we were already tight with "Alexa," the Echo's digital assistant. play

Our family already had three Echos — a regular one in the living room and Dots in the office and master bedroom — that we use for music, controlling various Hue lights and Nest thermostats, maintaining shopping and to-do lists, reordering Amazon items, and other general goofiness. In other words, we were already tight with "Alexa," the Echo's digital assistant.

(Amazon)


So when Amazon dropped the price of the Echo Dot on Prime Day, it was tempting to order another. But where would we use it? (Sorry, kids, you're not ready for an Alexa in your room.)

So when Amazon dropped the price of the Echo Dot on Prime Day, it was tempting to order another. But where would we use it? (Sorry, kids, you're not ready for an Alexa in your room.) play

So when Amazon dropped the price of the Echo Dot on Prime Day, it was tempting to order another. But where would we use it? (Sorry, kids, you're not ready for an Alexa in your room.)

(Amazon.com)


Then I recalled a funny moment in the car when our 6-year-old tried to ask the radio to play her favorite song. Nothing happened, and we laughed. But while staring at the $35 price tag on the Echo Dot, it hit me: Why couldn't we put one in a car and use it as a media device where everybody would have easy access?

Then I recalled a funny moment in the car when our 6-year-old tried to ask the radio to play her favorite song. Nothing happened, and we laughed. But while staring at the $35 price tag on the Echo Dot, it hit me: Why couldn't we put one in a car and use it as a media device where everybody would have easy access? play

Then I recalled a funny moment in the car when our 6-year-old tried to ask the radio to play her favorite song. Nothing happened, and we laughed. But while staring at the $35 price tag on the Echo Dot, it hit me: Why couldn't we put one in a car and use it as a media device where everybody would have easy access?

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


Eleven hours later, the Echo Dot, through Amazon's free one-day shipping, was on our doorstep, ready to be installed in the truck.

Eleven hours later, the Echo Dot, through Amazon's free one-day shipping, was on our doorstep, ready to be installed in the truck. play

Eleven hours later, the Echo Dot, through Amazon's free one-day shipping, was on our doorstep, ready to be installed in the truck.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


I do have a bit of advantage here as the owner of a 2015 Chevy Silverado. It has several USB ports, a Bluetooth stereo, and built-in Wi-Fi.

I do have a bit of advantage here as the owner of a 2015 Chevy Silverado. It has several USB ports, a Bluetooth stereo, and built-in Wi-Fi. play

I do have a bit of advantage here as the owner of a 2015 Chevy Silverado. It has several USB ports, a Bluetooth stereo, and built-in Wi-Fi.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


While few will have all three features, presumably, this would also work tethered to a phone's data plan and plugged into a lighter socket. In addition, the Echo can be attached directly to the car stereo through the audio input jack using a basic 3.5 mm audio cable.

While few will have all three features, presumably, this would also work tethered to a phone's data plan and plugged into a lighter socket. In addition, the Echo can be attached directly to the car stereo through the audio input jack using a basic 3.5 mm audio cable. play

While few will have all three features, presumably, this would also work tethered to a phone's data plan and plugged into a lighter socket. In addition, the Echo can be attached directly to the car stereo through the audio input jack using a basic 3.5 mm audio cable.

(iStock/SolisImages)


Installing it was a snap — just plug in the Dot, turn on the car, go through the regular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth setup as you would with any Echo, and voilà!

Installing it was a snap — just plug in the Dot, turn on the car, go through the regular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth setup as you would with any Echo, and voilà! play

Installing it was a snap — just plug in the Dot, turn on the car, go through the regular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth setup as you would with any Echo, and voilà!

(Amazon Alexa App)


I now have the Dot sitting on top of the center console for easy access to anybody in the front or back seats.

I now have the Dot sitting on top of the center console for easy access to anybody in the front or back seats. play

I now have the Dot sitting on top of the center console for easy access to anybody in the front or back seats.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


Interestingly, the Dot also fits perfectly into a standard cupholder if you want to hide it and still have constant voice access. But I was nervous I would forget and place a sweaty drink on top of it.

Interestingly, the Dot also fits perfectly into a standard cupholder if you want to hide it and still have constant voice access. But I was nervous I would forget and place a sweaty drink on top of it. play

Interestingly, the Dot also fits perfectly into a standard cupholder if you want to hide it and still have constant voice access. But I was nervous I would forget and place a sweaty drink on top of it.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


One concern was whether there would be a lag when starting the car and turning on the Dot. Inside the house, the Echos are always on. I was worried this would be a nuisance. It turns out that the Dot boots even quicker than I imagined it would, about 45 seconds, or before everyone has taken a seat and put on a seat belt.



In addition, there is just something soothing about having somebody say "Hello!" to me every time I start the car. Typically, I say "Hello" back to Alexa. This alone feels like a feature most cars should have, whether they have Alexa or not.

In addition, there is just something soothing about having somebody say "Hello!" to me every time I start the car. Typically, I say "Hello" back to Alexa. This alone feels like a feature most cars should have, whether they have Alexa or not. play

In addition, there is just something soothing about having somebody say "Hello!" to me every time I start the car. Typically, I say "Hello" back to Alexa. This alone feels like a feature most cars should have, whether they have Alexa or not.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


The other huge advantage is that it always automatically connects to the Bluetooth. In fact, the Bluetooth is fully connected even before the Dot has finished booting. So there is never any additional lag between turning it on and connecting to the car's media center.

The other huge advantage is that it always automatically connects to the Bluetooth. In fact, the Bluetooth is fully connected even before the Dot has finished booting. So there is never any additional lag between turning it on and connecting to the car's media center. play

The other huge advantage is that it always automatically connects to the Bluetooth. In fact, the Bluetooth is fully connected even before the Dot has finished booting. So there is never any additional lag between turning it on and connecting to the car's media center.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


One of the worst things about using a phone as a media device in the car is frequent connection problems. Sometimes it worked seamlessly, but other times it got confused, especially if we had two phones in the car or if one was using a USB port to charge. This never happens with the Dot, probably because the car is its only external connection and signals aren't crossing.

One of the worst things about using a phone as a media device in the car is frequent connection problems. Sometimes it worked seamlessly, but other times it got confused, especially if we had two phones in the car or if one was using a USB port to charge. This never happens with the Dot, probably because the car is its only external connection and signals aren't crossing. play

One of the worst things about using a phone as a media device in the car is frequent connection problems. Sometimes it worked seamlessly, but other times it got confused, especially if we had two phones in the car or if one was using a USB port to charge. This never happens with the Dot, probably because the car is its only external connection and signals aren't crossing.

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


But using the Dot in the car couldn't be more fun. So far we have used it for the obvious things like playing music ("Alexa, play the girls' favorite-songs playlist") and podcasts ("Alexa, play 'The Bill Simmons Podcast'"). The sound here is coming from the car's speakers.



We can make truly hands-free phone calls ("Alexa, call Laura") or send messages ("Alexa, send a message to Mom") to other people with Echos or the Alexa app on their phone.

We can make truly hands-free phone calls ("Alexa, call Laura") or send messages ("Alexa, send a message to Mom") to other people with Echos or the Alexa app on their phone. play

We can make truly hands-free phone calls ("Alexa, call Laura") or send messages ("Alexa, send a message to Mom") to other people with Echos or the Alexa app on their phone.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


We can get quick updates on the news ("Alexa, what's my Flash Briefing?"), add things we suddenly remember while driving to to-do lists, or listen to audiobooks.

We can get quick updates on the news ("Alexa, what's my Flash Briefing?"), add things we suddenly remember while driving to to-do lists, or listen to audiobooks. play

We can get quick updates on the news ("Alexa, what's my Flash Briefing?"), add things we suddenly remember while driving to to-do lists, or listen to audiobooks.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


We can control the house lights ("Alexa, turn on the downstairs lights") and temperature ("Alexa, set the house thermostats to Away") if we forget before we leave.

We can control the house lights ("Alexa, turn on the downstairs lights") and temperature ("Alexa, set the house thermostats to Away") if we forget before we leave. play

We can control the house lights ("Alexa, turn on the downstairs lights") and temperature ("Alexa, set the house thermostats to Away") if we forget before we leave.

(Amazon)


And our daughters just love goofing around with Alexa, whether it's jokes ("Alexa, tell us a joke") or games ("Alexa, open the Magic Door").

And our daughters just love goofing around with Alexa, whether it's jokes ("Alexa, tell us a joke") or games ("Alexa, open the Magic Door"). play

And our daughters just love goofing around with Alexa, whether it's jokes ("Alexa, tell us a joke") or games ("Alexa, open the Magic Door").

(Shutterstock)


But the best part of all of this is that everything is now truly hands-free. You never have to look at the display. You never have to reach for the radio or even find that one button on the steering wheel that you can never quite find without looking. It just feels safer.

But the best part of all of this is that everything is now truly hands-free. You never have to look at the display. You never have to reach for the radio or even find that one button on the steering wheel that you can never quite find without looking. It just feels safer. play

But the best part of all of this is that everything is now truly hands-free. You never have to look at the display. You never have to reach for the radio or even find that one button on the steering wheel that you can never quite find without looking. It just feels safer.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


And everybody in the car can use it without getting out of their seat, even from the back seat.

And everybody in the car can use it without getting out of their seat, even from the back seat. play

And everybody in the car can use it without getting out of their seat, even from the back seat.

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


While the Dot is great as an infotainment system, it's not perfect. For example, unlike music on my phone, the car's media display does not show the name of the song, and if you want to know, you have to interrupt Alexa to ask. This feels like something that will be easily fixed in the near future.

While the Dot is great as an infotainment system, it's not perfect. For example, unlike music on my phone, the car's media display does not show the name of the song, and if you want to know, you have to interrupt Alexa to ask. This feels like something that will be easily fixed in the near future. play

While the Dot is great as an infotainment system, it's not perfect. For example, unlike music on my phone, the car's media display does not show the name of the song, and if you want to know, you have to interrupt Alexa to ask. This feels like something that will be easily fixed in the near future.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


Alexa is also not giving you turn-by-turn directions like Google Maps or Waze. This truck has in-dash navigation, but it doesn't give audio instructions, requiring that you look away from the road. So for this, we are going to have to stick to the phone for now. Presumably this will no longer be a problem once Alex is built into the car.

Alexa is also not giving you turn-by-turn directions like Google Maps or Waze. This truck has in-dash navigation, but it doesn't give audio instructions, requiring that you look away from the road. So for this, we are going to have to stick to the phone for now. Presumably this will no longer be a problem once Alex is built into the car. play

Alexa is also not giving you turn-by-turn directions like Google Maps or Waze. This truck has in-dash navigation, but it doesn't give audio instructions, requiring that you look away from the road. So for this, we are going to have to stick to the phone for now. Presumably this will no longer be a problem once Alex is built into the car.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


Podcasts work, but they aren't perfect. By default, the Dot uses TuneIn radio for podcasts, and it can be hit or miss on whether TuneIn has your favorites. It's also heavily limited on settings like fast-forwarding, rewinding, or playing at a faster speed, and it's a bit cumbersome to find the exact episode you are looking for if it isn't the most recent one.

Podcasts work, but they aren't perfect. By default, the Dot uses TuneIn radio for podcasts, and it can be hit or miss on whether TuneIn has your favorites. It's also heavily limited on settings like fast-forwarding, rewinding, or playing at a faster speed, and it's a bit cumbersome to find the exact episode you are looking for if it isn't the most recent one. play

Podcasts work, but they aren't perfect. By default, the Dot uses TuneIn radio for podcasts, and it can be hit or miss on whether TuneIn has your favorites. It's also heavily limited on settings like fast-forwarding, rewinding, or playing at a faster speed, and it's a bit cumbersome to find the exact episode you are looking for if it isn't the most recent one.

(TuneIn)


Alexa does have the AnyPod skill, which helps with some of these issues, but this makes the command a little clunkier ("Alexa, ask AnyPod to fast-forward two minutes").

Alexa does have the AnyPod skill, which helps with some of these issues, but this makes the command a little clunkier ("Alexa, ask AnyPod to fast-forward two minutes"). play

Alexa does have the AnyPod skill, which helps with some of these issues, but this makes the command a little clunkier ("Alexa, ask AnyPod to fast-forward two minutes").

(Amazon.com)


My guess is that it's only a matter of time before Alexa integrates a better podcast player. But at this point, some will prefer to stick to their phones for podcasts.

My guess is that it's only a matter of time before Alexa integrates a better podcast player. But at this point, some will prefer to stick to their phones for podcasts. play

My guess is that it's only a matter of time before Alexa integrates a better podcast player. But at this point, some will prefer to stick to their phones for podcasts.

(Cork Gaines/Business Insider)


The one real downside we ever run into is occasionally she has what our family likes to call "brain farts," where she doesn't understand a command or seemingly just ignores it. But that is something that happens with all the Echos, especially when more than one child tries to pick a song at the same time. Poor Alexa.

The one real downside we ever run into is occasionally she has what our family likes to call "brain farts," where she doesn't understand a command or seemingly just ignores it. But that is something that happens with all the Echos, especially when more than one child tries to pick a song at the same time. Poor Alexa. play

The one real downside we ever run into is occasionally she has what our family likes to call "brain farts," where she doesn't understand a command or seemingly just ignores it. But that is something that happens with all the Echos, especially when more than one child tries to pick a song at the same time. Poor Alexa.

(Rick Wilking/Reuters)


In addition, she sometimes struggles to hear commands if the radio is too loud or if the car's AC fan is anything louder than a whisper. So on hot days, you have to turn the fan down occasionally before she understands commands.

play

(NASA)


But overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and for the first time, I feel as though I have a truly hands-free experience with media in the car. Since the first day we installed it, it was clear that Alexa was the future of car infotainment and now Toyota is making that a reality. It won't be long before other car companies do the same.

But overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and for the first time, I feel as though I have a truly hands-free experience with media in the car. Since the first day we installed it, it was clear that Alexa was the future of car infotainment and now Toyota is making that a reality. It won't be long before other car companies do the same. play

But overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and for the first time, I feel as though I have a truly hands-free experience with media in the car. Since the first day we installed it, it was clear that Alexa was the future of car infotainment and now Toyota is making that a reality. It won't be long before other car companies do the same.

(Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)


Strangely, the Echo Dot actually feels more natural in the car than in the house. While Echos in the house help you do things you could do yourself (i.e., it helps you be more efficient or just lazy), in the car it actually helps you do things you can't — or shouldn't — do.

Strangely, the Echo Dot actually feels more natural in the car than in the house. While Echos in the house help you do things you could do yourself (i.e., it helps you be more efficient or just lazy), in the car it actually helps you do things you can't — or shouldn't — do. play

Strangely, the Echo Dot actually feels more natural in the car than in the house. While Echos in the house help you do things you could do yourself (i.e., it helps you be more efficient or just lazy), in the car it actually helps you do things you can't — or shouldn't — do.

(IvanTheK)


In other words, adding Alexa doesn't feel forced. Alexa feels like she was designed specifically for the in-car experience.

In other words, adding Alexa doesn't feel forced. Alexa feels like she was designed specifically for the in-car experience. play

In other words, adding Alexa doesn't feel forced. Alexa feels like she was designed specifically for the in-car experience.

(Thomson Reuters)


Now, check out how fun the sports world has been recently.

Now check out how incredible the recent run of championship games and series has been. play

Now check out how incredible the recent run of championship games and series has been.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

We just witnessed the greatest 24 months in sports championship history