"Alexa... I need a car at LaGuardia Airport at 9:00 a.m. this Friday." Speaking that phrase into Amazon's Echo device today will result in some confusion on the part of Alexa, the Echo's human-like persona. However, if all goes as planned, by the end of August, you will actually be able to book a car rental using nothing but your voice through the integration of Avis and Amazon's Echo device.
Avis announced today that it will allow travelers to book and manage car rental reservations through the popular voice platform on Amazon Echo devices. Avis is the first to market with this type of integration. Kayak today offers the ability to search for flight, hotel and rental car information -- but not yet book, and even the lookup functionality is pretty clunky. It remains to be seen whether Avis can create a user experience that is seamless and useful enough for travelers to actually use it to book and manage reservations vs. using a website or mobile app.
With the new skill for Alexa-enabled devices such as the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, Avis customers will be able to make a car rental reservation, review current or past reservations and request an e-receipt of their last rental. The platform can manage the booking process leveraging the traveler's preferences stored in their Avis Preferred profile. These include car preference and additional options such as SiriusXM, GPS devices and coverages. You can see a demo of the technology in action in this Avis Twitter post.
In terms of technology Avis definitely seems to be ahead of their competitors. Not only are they the first out of the gate with this type of integration (Hertz is sure to follow soon), but their mobile app is leaps and bounds better than the competition with the ability to exchange or upgrade a vehicle before arriving, or at the lot, extend rentals in real-time with the app, process a return with the app without needing to interact with any personnel, and view rental receipts and share then with travel expense applications, locatate gas stations and parking options nearby or at an address, and even see when the next Avis courtesy bus will arrive at major airports.
Avis has used the tagline We try harder over the years. While it's not part of their current marketing message, it seems appropriate given their recent effort to stay out ahead of their competitors in the area of technology. With things changing as fast as they are these days, the entire rental industry should all be trying a bit harder, lest they get left behind.