- Mercedes-Benz introduced a digital assistant that bypasses the need for voice-enabled systems from tech giants Amazon and Google, according to The Verge. The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) will be added as standard equipment in its next generation of compact cars as early as this year, the company announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
- MBUX has natural-language processing (NLP) capabilities that can respond to slang or indirect requests. For example, saying "Hey, Mercedes, I'm too cold" will prompt the system to automatically raise the inside temperature a few degrees instead of requiring a driver to request the exact temperature. Asking questions like "Do I need sunglasses tomorrow in Miami?" are answered with weather forecasts for the region.
- The MBUX system is powered by Nvidia chips that handle voice recognition and the dashboard's touchscreen graphics. The system will be available in 23 languages and continually updated to ensure it's up to date with the latest slang.
While other carmakers are eager to integrate Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant into their vehicles, Mercedes is taking the road less traveled by developing an entirely new AI for its infotainment system. Several other car makers announced at CES that their on-board infotainment systems would include NLP tech from Amazon or Google, but Mercedes is shifting away from a reliance on the two tech giants.
The Verge reported that the move likely means Mercedes wants to have a system that's fully committed to the driving experience instead of third-party apps and features can feel unwieldy and that drivers might eventually ignore or avoid. However, the MBUX system does offer third-party mobile services such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for people who prefer those systems. Mercedes announced just months ago in April that its fleet of 2016 and 2017 vehicles in the U.S. were connected with both Amazon and Google's voice assistants.
At the same time, the brand doesn't appear to be making a carbon copy of Alexa or Google Assistant. MBUX doesn't have gesture control, a feature that rival BMW included in its latest iDrive infotainment system, as the company claims the feature may be a distraction. The Mercedes system also has a search agent to see nearby restaurants and reviews from Yelp that can be integrated with phone or navigation requests.
Instead of using Google maps, Mercedes provides its own system that shows 3-D graphics of roads and buildings on a widescreen display. It can also show a 2-D map in front of the driver, making it easier to follow real-time navigation without looking aside at a mobile phone. With safety as a key concern for many mobile users, those features may help to close the sale for people in the market for a luxury car.