A key cornerstone of Mercedes’ commitment to innovation is the launch a new research and development site in Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley. Home to Google, Apple and Facebook, Mercedes-Benz first established a base there in 1994, the first automaker to do so.
The new facility aims to expand the automaker’s R&D capabilities, where one of its key aims will be the development of adaptive driving systems and autonomous vehicle technology. A Society & Technology Research Group based at the site will examine societal trends in the U.S, as researchers continue to investigate fuel cells and electric vehicles.
The choice of location is further testament to the convergence of automobiles and consumer technology. And indeed, a key focus for the brand is infotainment and telematics systems to enable customers to “continue their digital lifestyle inside their vehicles.
Infotainment and connectivity are already a priority for the automaker, which hopes to create holistic experiences for Android and iPhone users, to ensure that seamless and automatic integration with its vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz updated its Digital DriveStyle App in December 2013, promising perfect integration for iPhone users into Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with Drive Kit Plus. An adapted iPhone menu is displayed on the in-vehicle display, allowing users to safely navigate the user interface of the car’s controller while driving.
The app allows drivers to remain connected to Twitter and Facebook, by reading aloud newsfeeds and enabling posting, tweeting, responding and re-tweeting. Music on the iPhone itself can be accessed, alongside access to friends’ favourite songs and Internet radio.
Another priority for Mercedes-Benz is autonomous driving, an area where the brand is fast becoming a leader. The new S-Class made headlines as the first car in history capable of driving itself, though the car’s current autonomous mode is only suited for traffic jams and highway driving.
In August 2013 theS 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle successfully negotiated highly complex rural and urban traffic autonomously, on the historical Bertha Benz route covering some 100 kilometres between Mannheim and Pforzheim.
The prototype, equipped with the same camera and radar sensors already found on the production S-Class, had to deal with traffic lights, roundabouts, pedestrians, cyclists and trams without any human involvement. Engineers ‘taught’ the existing technology platform to know where it is, what it sees and how to react autonomously.
Based on gathered sensor data and determination of the vehicle’s own position, with reference to information from a digital map, the prototype analysed the available free area for driving and planned its own route based on specific algorithms. Mercedes-Benz has committed to have the system ready for production by 2020.