The blending of technology continues apace, with software from Stuttgart pairing with Silicon Valley’s best in an effort to upgrade the operating system found in its luxury vehicles.
First up is a complete rethink of the technology facing drivers and passengers in the cabin of a Mercedes-Benz. Officially called the Mercedes-Benz Operating System (abbreviated as MB.OS), this tech is described as a purpose-built “chip-to-cloud” architecture, which will be central to every future product designed in Stuttgart. It is intended to deliver exceptional software capabilities whilst engaging customers with its ease of use. Plans call for it to be introduced mid-decade along with the new Mercedes Modular Architecture platform.
The company says they have created its new operating system to be standardized across the entire vehicle portfolio, fully updateable for rapid product upgrades, and deliberately open for selected partners. In plain English, that means it’ll eventually be rolled out across all models and include some features developed by other companies – in conjunction with Mercedes, of course.
Which companies? Google
, for starters. M-B wishes to develop its own branded navigation experience based on new in-car data and navigation capabilities from the Google Maps platform. This means the company will retain some control over various aspects of the show rather than turning everything over to a third party while still leveraging its partner’s strengths. Many have asked why car companies continue to try and reinvent the wheel in terms of navigation systems when perfectly good ones exist from the likes of Apple and Google, with the answer often being that OEMs like to retain ownership and call the shots. This approach may be able to open the best of both worlds: incorporating the best of Google while holding tight to company preferences and data, the latter of which is profitable.
Being able to draw from the Google hivemind has advantages, not the least of which is real-time information on traffic and route options. It’ll also give Mercedes a leg up on enabling assisted driving features such as automatic speed adjustments before intersections or curves. And, yes, the mildly scary term “AI” crops up since all this information can be used to create and train – and deploy – new models to enhance customer experiences. In other words, the greater the number of users, the better MB.OS recommendations will be for navigation and other tools.
A precursor to MB.OS will be available in the new E-Class starting in 2023, a vehicle that will pack third-gen MBUX software. In fact, that’s about our only complaint with this announcement – we’ll no longer be referring to M-B infotainment by its perfect “M-Bucks” phonetics.
Speaking of the new E-Class, Merc also gave us a peek at the new interior of that model. As is typical of Mercedes these days, the ambient lighting game is on point, carving and diving across the interior as if it has been prised off a sign in Las Vegas. No longer a static display, the lights activate in sync with ventilation adjustments as they do in other models but also – new to the E-Class – can be tied into the stereo system. In this so-called Sound Visualization, fast sequences of beats can cause rapid light changes, while flowing rhythms can create softly merging lighting moods. This pairs well with the fabulous Dolby Atmos technology and sound-resonating transducers in the optional Burmester surround sound system. Technically, passengers in the new E-Class can now see, hear, and feel the music with these three pieces of kit.
As for the banality of life, Mercedes seeks to automate some of those tasks as well. Owners will be able to use templates for standard routines, such as switching on the heated seats and changing the ambient lighting to warm orange when cabin temps are below a certain level. An overarching goal is for the car to learn which comfort systems vehicle occupants repeatedly use and when so, given the same circumstances, the E-Class can take care of it for you.
Naturally, high-quality digital displays are a big part of the interior, including an optional front passenger screen living underneath the same pane of glass as the centre-stack jumbotron. Driver gauges are physically separated from this expanse and housed in their own tablet-style screen, creating a separation of church and state instead of deploying a single enormous piece of glass. All of this will surely be customizable to the nth degree. And, in a nod to people working remotely instead of being penned up like veal, Mercedes plans to offer a cabin-facing video camera as part of that optional MBUX Superscreen, one which can be tied into video conferences when the car is stationary. We’ll let your imagination run wild here, though the fine print does talk about legal requirements in different markets so don’t be surprised if that detail is omitted in some countries.
The E-Class launch starts with the sedan model. The first copies of this new series, called the 214 for you chassis number nerds, will arrive at Canadian dealerships at the end of 2023.