Having officially released its MBUX infotainment system to the world at the CES in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz went on to emphasise its belief that the smartphone-like interface will in fact 'revolutionise the face of in-car infotainment'. It's a big call, but having tested the system firsthand - albeit briefly - there is some merit to the claim.
We intend to revolutionise the ways you interact with cars," Ola Kallenius, member of the board of management, told the world's media.
"So far, talking to a car feels like something weird, but this time, what happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. We will build on seven years of record sales globally to change the face of motor vehicles."
The MBUX system, which has been a collaboration between Mercedes-Benz HQ in Stuttgart and Silicon Valley, is part smartphone interface, part vehicle infotainment, and partly the future of the connection between car and driver.
We're used to phones being able to answer to 'hey Siri' or 'hey Google', but cars? Not so much. Not until now anyway. "We're taking the user experience to the next level," Sajjad Khan - Vice President of Digital Vehicle and Mobility said. "We're proud to have developed it in house with our tech experts in Stuttgart and Silicone Valley."
Mercedes-Benz has for sometime been working to the acronym: CASE. In MB speak, that stands for: Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Services and Electric. Four facets of where the brand is headed into the next decade and beyond.
"We call MBUX human centred innovation," Kallenius said. "It's one part of turning the car into the ultimate mobile device. MBUX has the best graphics and controls, and it will be the best conversation you’ve ever had with a car. Say ‘hey Mercedes’ and it will respond to you - similar to the way ‘hey Google’ works, but specific to Mercedes-Benz."
As we've come to expect thanks to companies like Apple that place serious emphasis - not to mention money - on design and appearance, the Mercedes-Benz team spent plenty of time making sure the new system looked attractive and high-end.
"The new Mercedes-Benz operating system is truly amazing," Gordon Wagener, Chief Design Officer said. "The new MBUX is incredibly intelligent and tailored to your needs. It's not just about intelligence though, it’s also about emotions. My job, my team's job, is to turn technology into an emotional experience."
Wagener went on to explain the dual facets of the design ethos. 'Hot' is the emotional side, while 'Cool' is the intelligence and tech side of the equation. Sure, a lot of it is design-speak, but the reality is MBUX has to go head to head with established tech companies and smartphone gurus, so Mercedes-Benz couldn't afford to get this one wrong.
"We translated that ethos into user delight and ease of use," Wagener said. "You'll see glossy materials, intuitive functionality, clean and intelligent design and an elegance to the way in which you interact with the system."
"We have created a user experience like you have never seen in a car before," Wagener explained. "It's intuitive (as it had to be), it's simple and unexpected, but at the same time beautiful and sensual, and we think it is the hottest and coolest operating system ever. You can see we have turned technology into an emotional experience."
"We believe in the combination of the beauty and the brains," Khan explained. "The beauty of our system was paramount. Intelligence makes it truly individualised, and the new system is extremely easy to use, with a new level of cloud connect, and is also deeply integrated into the internet."
That connection to the internet will be key for MBUX too. Where most proprietary satellite navigation systems are painful to update for example, the MBUX system promises in theory to be as easy to update as a regular smartphone system, downloading a patch as soon as it connects to your secure wifi network.
"It will regularly update over the air, with a secure connection, and updates can only be installed if the signature is valid in the car," Khan said. "It uses an intelligent learning system, this is how it adapts to the requirement of our customers."
Like the - no pun intended - smartest operating systems, MBUX is designed to learn your preferences over time and adapt to them, which is part of Mercedes-Benz claim that MBUX will change the way owners interact with their vehicles. Those preferences come down to temperature control, music choices, favourite restaurants and cafes.
"You can do all this in 23 different languages," Khan said. MBUX even updates quickly with new slang words that enter the lexicon.
"The integration of features like Yelp provides cafes and restaurant access, with ratings," Khan said. "Thats the same with Trip Advisor, as well as integration with Google Home or Amazon Alexa and even wearables like a smart watch."
Stay tuned for even more features to find their way into the MBUX operating system into the future then.