All posts in “Mercedes Benz”

It’s not just Waymo: Mercedes says it’s launching a self-driving car service

Self-driving car companies have been testing their vehicles for years, but now regular riders are starting to catch rides in the robot cars. 

Instead of merely watching a vehicle loaded with cameras, sensors, and other equipment drive by, some lucky folks (and not just company employees) are now able to experience the autonomy in person.

Waymo is sticking to its end-of-2018 timeline for a self-driving taxi service in Arizona. GM’s Cruise says 2019 is the year for a car service to drive San Franciscans around. And, in Dubai, a self-driving taxi service has already hit the streets.

Now, Daimler, the company that owns Mercedes-Benz, says it’s working with German auto parts company Bosch, to offer a self-driving car service for “select” riders in the San Jose area in the second half of 2019. 

Autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class cars will drive passengers between west San Jose and downtown. Notably, San Jose is in the heart of Silicon Valley, south of San Francisco.

The Daimler-Bosch service will still have a safety driver present to monitor the trip, which riders can hail from an app. The car will then drive to the passenger, and take them to their chosen destination. 

Details about who can use the service and how much it will cost weren’t immediately clear, but it’s considered a trial program as the companies gear up for a wider roll-out.

Both Daimler and Bosch have self-driving testing permits in California and have been testing in the state since its self-driving program opened up. In the latest disengagement report, Bosch reported testing through July 2017. Neither company has reported a crash involving an autonomous vehicle. The California DMV says as of this week, 113 collision reports have come into the department.

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Mercedes-Benz turns to SoundHound for in-vehicle voice assistant

Drivers of new Mercedes-Benz A-Class vehicles will soon be able to talk to their cars. And the cars will respond. Ask the car to turn on the heads-up display or for sports scores. Say you’re hungry and it will suggest restaurants. The new in-vehicle assistant utilizes local and cloud data to provide drivers plenty to talk about.

The service was built by a 13-year old startup ran out of Santa Clara, CA called SoundHound . Originally, the company launched as a Shazam-like service but kept evolving into a robust conversational artificial intelligence service. Different versions of SoundHound’s service are available on a number of platforms including iOS, Android and in several vehicles made by Kia and Hyundai.

Mercedes’ version of SoundHound’s service is two parts. Some of the requests, mostly about the vehicle’s systems, are processed locally. If a driver asks about sports scores or stock prices or a gas station location, the service reaches out to a cloud service to retrieve the latest information. The service is location-aware, too, allowing the driver to ask about nearby restaurants without specifying a city to search within.

The voice assistant is part of Mercedes-Benz’s new MBUX user interface. The car company says its highly personalized and configurable and adapts to the user over time.

In May of 2018 Mercedes-Benz joined four other investors including Tencent and Hyundai Motors in a $100m corporate round. The company has raised $215m to date through six rounds of funding since 2005.

This voice service comes a week after BMW announced its custom-built in-vehicle voice assistant. As voice assistant gain household penetration, more automakers are looking to cash in on consumer’s acceptance of technology. The trick is finding a balance between utility and novelty. Car companies cannot simply turn to Amazon and build-in Alexa; Alexa is not meant for in-car users. Rather, car companies must use off-the-shelf systems like from SoundHound or Clinc or build their own service to best suit their users.

Mercedes tries to catch up to Tesla with its all-electric SUV

Here's the Mercedes-Benz electric SUV at last.
Here’s the Mercedes-Benz electric SUV at last.

Image: SOREN ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images

Following years of rumors that Mercedes-Benz might unleash an electric model into a high-end market that has so far been dominated by Tesla, the German auto maker finally showed a major card in its hand on Tuesday when it unveiled its plans for a zero-emission crossover SUV called the EQC.

The vehicle will be the first in its EQ lineup — “EQ” meaning “electric intelligence” — and will start production in 2019 with an expected 280-mile electric range. In a series of statements, Mercedes described the EQC as a “muscular” vehicle with a new “electro-look;” the “design idiom of Progressive Luxury.”

Hyperbole aside, the instrument cluster and media display (or “infotainment system,” in Daimler’s terms) is a proprietary system called MBUX, which will learn user patterns and behaviors. So if you listen to NPR at the same time every day, a suggestion will pop up for that action during that time of the day, and navigation to frequently visited locations will automatically load in the background of the screen when it thinks you want to go there.

A lithium-ion battery will power the vehicle to a 110-mile-per-hour top speed and push it from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.1 seconds.

The interior of the Mercedes EQC trying to be as slick as Tesla.

The interior of the Mercedes EQC trying to be as slick as Tesla.

Image: SOREN ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images

Daimler again announced that it wants 2022 to be its electric year, saying that by then it hopes to have a total of 10 electric models on the road. The company also teased its plans in several auto show presentations and a video clip that showed a concept electric model driving around the Sicilian countryside earlier this year, but if Elon Musk’s Tesla troubles are any indication, building these battery-powered vehicles has not come easy to the auto manufacturing industry.

Analysts were quick to point out that the EQC announcement sends a message that Daimler is ready to take on Tesla’s Model X in the luxury SUV market — Bloomberg called the EQ rollout a “$12 billion attack plan,” and Reuters called the SUV a “Telsa fighter” — but with no price tag listed yet, it’s not certain just how the EQC will stack up against the $80,000 starting price of the Musk mobile.

For all the buzz, the EQC isn’t the only advanced vehicle to enter the fray in 2019, as German business news outlet Handelsblatt Global noted.

On Wednesday, Volvo is expected to explain what it has recently teased in videos as the evolution of travel — we have a hunch it could be a concept of an autonomous vehicle (but definitely looks like something straight out of Tron) — and BMW and Audi will announce new electric vehicles later this month. 

Musk better get ready; it looks like Tesla’s competition is charging up.

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The first long-distance car ride took place 130 years ago. Here’s the story.

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For its Instagram TV debut Monday, Mercedes-Benz uploaded a short film portraying the (re-enacted) car ride Bertha Benz took in 1888. 

On an August morning, Benz took out her husband Karl’s newly invented automobile (more like a motorized carriage), the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, and started off on a 60-mile journey through Germany with her two teenage sons. (In the video, they help send her off by pushing the car’s wheels.) This became the first real drive in an automobile. Today, that’s some people’s daily commute — one way. But back then this was quite an accomplishment. The vehicle went about 10 mph, so it took a full day.

The route she took from Mannehim to Pforzheim has become the Bertha Benz Memorial Route. The route is still maintained by a nonprofit working to ensure that the scenic route doesn’t fall into obscurity. The carmaker has tons of history about the pioneering woman behind the wheel, who financed the car project but as a married woman didn’t get full recognition for her role in driving the car industry.

That road trip has gone down in history. And now it’s Insta-worthy.

Geely becomes Daimler’s largest shareholder with $9 billion stake


Automaker Daimler has a new largest shareholder – Geely Automotive chairman Li Shufu. The Geely stake, worth an estimated $9 billion, should give the Chinese automotive giant more leverage when trying to work out cross-company tech arrangements with Daimler and its sub brands including Mercedes-Benz.

Daimler is already partnered up with a major automotive concern in China – BAIC, with which it has a joint venture to produce vehicles for the country. But Geely has been pursuing cooperation with the German auto giant for some time now, specifically around autonomous driving and EVs.

This will give the company a very good bargaining position, but it’s too early to tell whether it means more formal partnerships and collaboration agreements are already on the way. Geely is also the owner of Volvo, which it acquired from Ford in 2010.