Amazon today announced a new feature for U.S. drivers who may need assistance while on the road — like if they get a flat tire or run out of gas, for instance. At its annual hardware event, the company introduced a service called Amazon Roadside Assistance, accessible from the Alexa app, or via Echo Auto or other Echo devices.
In the event that a driver encounters a problem while on the road, they can simply ask Alexa for help instead of trying to figure out who to call in their local area. Alexa will contact a roadside assistance provider who can then assess the situation and send help, the company explains.
The service is not designed to compete with existing roadside assistance plans, like AAA or those provided by a car insurance provider, but is rather meant to be used by those without some sort of assistance plan. Amazon says the user only pays for the services they need at the time.
These costs will vary depending on location and what sort of service is required, but customers will be notified of the pricing from the roadside assistance provider and will agree to the service before anyone is dispatched to help. The providers are independent contractors in the local area — Amazon did not name any national brands as partners.
To use the feature, the customer will say “Alexa, call roadside assistance” to their device or app, then be connected with an agent for an estimate. When the service is confirmed, they’ll receive an invoice with the payment due. The customer will be able to complete the payment via the phone or via Stripe, and the agent will then dispatch the service.
The feature is said to be coming in the months ahead, but Amazon didn’t offer an exact time frame. That means we don’t yet know how well this feature works or how competitive the pricing being offered will be.
The feature was one of two additions designed with the needs of drivers in mind announced at today’s event, however.
Another allows Amazon to notify Echo Auto users (or even Echo devices at home), when a Whole Foods curbside pickup order is ready. On Echo Auto and through the Alexa app, users will receive the notification about the order, and can then say “Alexa, check into Whole Foods” to let the store know you’re on the way. Alexa will also offer a welcome message when you arrive, parking instructions and alert the store staff of your arrival.