In late 2017, Garmin teamed up with Amazon to announce the Garmin Speak ($85 at Amazon), a nano-scale Amazon Echo ($26 at Amazon) for your car's dashboard. On Monday, at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, the navigation giant unveiled the Garmin Speak Plus, adding a built-in dash camera and some surprisingly advanced driver safety tech to the pint-sized package.
Like the original Garmin Speak, the Plus allows drivers to access Amazon Alexa voice skills with the hands-free "Alexa…" keyword. It also integrates with the Garmin Speak phone app and Alexa skill to enable destination search and turn-by-turn navigation, displaying turn and lane guidance on its small OLED display.
However, the addition of a camera to the Speak's compact package greatly increases the Speak Plus' utility. Like most dashcams, the Plus records a video loop of the road ahead and automatically saves a clip when an incident is detected. These video clips are useful for documenting accidents and fender-benders. However, the Speak Plus camera can also increase safety and help prevent accidents from happening.
The software powering Speak Plus' camera enables forward collision and lane departure warning, advanced driver assistance features typically found in pricey safety tech packaged on new cars, but now can be added to any car on the road just by sticking a Speak Plus on the windshield.
The forward collision warning detects cars ahead and notifies the driver when following too closely or closing in too quickly, which may cause an accident. Lane departure warning alerts the driver when drifting out of their lane or off of the road. There's even a "Go Alert" feature that lets you know when stopped traffic starts moving while you've looked away to check on the kids, for example.
I felt the original Garmin Speak was a bit overpriced for what it was, but the addition of camera-based safety features alone makes me much more forgiving of Plus' $230 price tag. Garmin's even offering a special discount for those who preorder before Feb. 10, bringing the price down to $200.
The Garmin Speak Plus with Amazon Alexa will be available starting mid-Feb at Best Buy and, of course, Amazon.com.
CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.
The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.