Amazon has rolled out public transit for Alexa after nearly a year of testing in the US. Alexa Transit features provide information and real-time updates for more than 450 public transit companies.
Alexa transit tools rolled out in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, San and Newark, and the Jersey City metro area last year. The success of these tests has led to a huge expansion of the voice assistant’s databases of bus and train stations, how to navigate them, and how to use public transport to commute or reach nearby places of interest. Users can connect their Alexa accounts, enter their home and work locations, and get answers about their commute or the best directions to either destination. Alexa can also answer questions about specific trains and buses, including their status if they slow down or are interrupted for any reason. Upon request, Alexa will provide directions by voice or visuals on a smartphone by car or public transit to specific addresses or notable tourist destinations. With the ongoing US rollout, the next stage will be international.
“Alexa’s transit status and delay feature is built using the Amazon OpenSearch Service, which allows Alexa to scale. This feature will be available in international countries like the UK and Germany later in 2022,” explained Alexa Navigation Senior Product Manager Kenneth Louie. “Customers can search for train and bus data for countries around the world through entity resolution built into Amazon OpenSearch Service to power Alexa’s speech recognition and understanding capabilities. Alexa provides customers with time-sensitive information based on the train or bus line of interest, thanks to automated ingestion of updated data and collaboration with a leading data provider on status updates and route details.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted or halted many commuters and other travel, these types of tools could be a boon as people return to offices and schools. For Amazon, which lacks Apple’s built-in voice assistant and Google-based operating systems, encouraging people to use Alexa when traveling is a good way to meddle with Google Maps or Apple Maps, especially with smart display guidance in the people houses. Google has regularly integrated speech AI into Maps and channeled Google Translate to help travelers find their way around new places, including using AI to generate audio walking directions designed specifically for people with visual impairments, including Guides to bus and train stations. The WeWalk Smart Cane does the same with its custom voice assistant. Alexa simply aims to become part of the daily conversation about where to go and how to get there.
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