Alexa Echo Dot

Wyoming is the only state that is actively sharing its road information through cutting-edge “connected vehicle technology,” but Trihydro, an environmental engineering and consulting firm in Laramie, is hopeful that will change.

The same road information that the Wyoming Department of Transportation releases on its 511 website and phone app is now available to access hands-free through Amazon Alexa devices, thanks to a cutting-edge Cowboy State partnership.

Through an application known as the “Traveler Information Skill,” the application is available for use through any Alexa-enabled technology, such as the Echo and Echo Dot, as of Monday.

Once enabled, the Alexa skill pulls travel information such as road closures, winter conditions, and road construction from information provided by WYDOT’s Transportation Management Center.

There is no fee to use the service, nor did the State incur any expense in the design.

This new capability is the result of a partnership between WYDOT and Trihydro, an environmental engineering and consulting firm in Laramie.

“It allows us to put information in vehicles to reduce crashes and fatalities across the country by making this information available in a more modern way at no cost to the taxpayers,” said Vince Garcia, program manager of the Transportation Management Center. “It’s pretty interesting that a Wyoming company is leading connected vehicle technology throughout the country,” Garcia added.

According to a WYDOT press release, users must install the Traveler Information Skill, either by commanding Alexa to “Install the Traveler Information Skill” or by manually installing the skill from the Alexa app. Users will then be asked to grant location permissions on their device.

After the skill has been installed, it’s necessary for users to always preface each question with “Ask Traveler Information” or “Open Traveler Information” in order to get authentic messaging from Wyoming’s 511 system.

“Alexa is widely used by a lot of people so incorporating WYDOT data into that line of products seemed like a logical first step, but the information can be shared with anyone,” Shane Zumpf, who leads Trihydro’s Technology Services and Solutions Business Unit, said in a press release.

Currently, Wyoming is the only state that is actively sharing its road information through the system, but Zumpf is hopeful that will change.

“The sharing system we designed is set up so that it can support any number of states, and we’re in talks with California and Colorado and a few other states to start getting their data in as well,” Zumpf said. “Our vision for this is that all 50 states will start sharing their data so that the skill can be used nationwide.”

After the skill has been installed, users can give commands such as “Alexa, open Traveler Information ... How are the roads between Rawlins and Rock Springs?”

The Alexa skill is an achievement stemming from federal funds granted by the U.S. Department of Transportation through its Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program, which awarded cooperative grants collectively worth more than $45 million to three pilot sites, including New York City, Tampa and Wyoming.

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