On February 22 at 7:30 p.m., the infotainment of some Mercedes models changed. Because exactly at this point in time, cars like the current S-Class received a wireless update, with which they can now access Google Points of Interest (POI) for the first time. The next big hit will follow in summer, when the infotainment of the E-Class will be equipped with new functions such as sound visualization including Dolby Atmos.
But that's just the first step to what Silicon Valley calls the "next big thing." Mercedes calls this expansion stage MB.OS 0.8. So not the whole package yet. Customers will have to wait around 20 months for the 1.0 version of MB.OS. From the middle of the decade, Mercedes turned its technology inside out. Then the compact and mid-range cars will be given a new architecture: the Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) is designed for electric motors. Now the introduction of a new platform is routine for car manufacturers and necessary to keep up with technical developments.
At Mercedes, the introduction of the new digital architecture is tantamount to a revolution. Finally, one breaks with several traditions: The new operating system is called MB.OS and is a so-called chip to cloud system. "We use this to control the chain of command from the switch to the cloud," explains Vadim Weis, who is responsible for integrating the apps. Instead of a collection of control units, the MB.OS only has four. As many as Tesla. In any case, the Mercedes developers took a large sip from the Tesla cup. "We're rethinking the car," says Mercedes boss Ola Källenius. And in domains. So what the squad around Elon Musk started ten years ago. "For the first time we're putting a super computer in the Mercedes," beams the Swede.
But the same applies here: better late than never. But if you want to start a software revolt, you have to cut ties with old habits, even in Swabia. The Mercedes technicians developed the operating system themselves, since it is based on Linux, it is open to partners such as Nvidia, who are working on the robotic car. "The goal with MB.OS is automated driving level 3 at a speed of 130 km/h," explains software boss Magnus Östberg. To achieve this, the carmaker packs a next-generation Luminar high-tech lidar into the vehicle, which is not only very compact but also very powerful.
In addition, the Swabians are creating a platform on which various Android apps can run. That means: Mercedes brings Google into the car and with it the navigation software Google Maps. "The goal is to make MB.OS so good that you don't have to mirror the phone," explains Mercedes Board Member for Development Markus Schäfer. So is this the end of Here? The map service that Mercedes bought together with Audi and BMW in 2015 for 2.8 billion euros. "No!" Ola Källenius contradicts. “We continue to work with Here. The same with Apple!” But the direction has already been taken, even if the Swabian car manufacturer preaches the openness of the platform for all potential partners. Mercedes experts compare the new operating system to a house owned by the carmaker, where you can rent an apartment but not buy it.
Despite all the compliments and mutual pats on the back, it's also clear that Google isn't a charitable company, but rather takes payment for its participation in the beautiful new Mercedes world. Experts rumor of an annual license fee in the tens of millions. "We don't comment on numbers"; the Mercedes boss dismisses it and adds: "It's a win-win situation." Let's see how the balance sheet is at the end of the decade.
Either way, the Mercedes of the year turns into a rolling tablet with YouTube or a number of games. On the back seats, you can also use the Amazon Fire Stick to get other TV programs and streaming services in the car. Of course, the star brand also wants to make money with the new system. The range extends from equipment details that can be activated later (MB Connect) to autonomous driving level 3 (MB Drive). Of course, there will also be special charging offers such as flat rates or battery and software updates for the electric models under MB Charge. At some point drivers will be able to choose from thousands of games, currently it's just the virtual slingshot classic Angry Birds.
Thanks to the open platform, you can tailor the infotainment depending on the region: Google for North America, but something else for Korea. Drivers' wishes are also incorporated into the improvements. "We don't do anything without the legal consent of the customer," Östberg clarifies. That is why data security is a top priority. "Thanks to the constant updates, the car never gets old," adds Markus Schäfer, in a similar way to a smartphone. But anyone who owns an Apple iPhone knows how often updates have to be quickly corrected. In a car, such operations on the open IT heart are a no-go, so every improvement has to be right on the spot.