All posts in “Mercedes Benz”

These teeny electric cars are so cute you won’t mind constantly recharging

Who knew cars could be so cute? And electric? 

At this year’s Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, electric vehicles were everywhere, but a few stood out. Not for their impressive range and battery capacity, but for their small size and cute factor. 

Take the Honda E Prototype, which made its world premiere at the show on Tuesday. 

An electric Honda.

An electric Honda.

Image: Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

After years of hype about an all-electric “urban” car, Honda will start producing the car (formerly known as the Urban EV Concept) as its first dedicated EV in Europe later this year. (The only other electric Honda is the Honda Fit EV.) 

With only 124 miles of range, it’s certainly a commuter car, but that’s the point. It has fast charging and is intended to a be compact, quick ride. It will start production by the end of this year.

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Then there’s the Ami One concept car, also on display at the show Tuesday. The two-seater from French car maker Citroen is only an idea for a commuter car, but it takes it to the extreme. The company calls it “ultra-compact” and it’s supposed to be the quintessential city car. So if you normally take the bus or a scooter you could use this instead. And like a scooter, you could rent the car for a quick 10-minute ride, or drive it through a carshare. Or you could just buy it. 

The car is tiny and light (under 1,000 pounds — a Mini Cooper is more than 2,000 pounds) but it only has about 60 miles of range. So you’ll need to charge up during that downtown meeting or cup of coffee. It takes about two hours to re-juice the battery. 

Not as tiny, but still funky enough to pass as cute, is the Volkswagen ID Buggy modeled after the “classic Californian dune buggies of the 60s.” This dune buggy is an all-electric concept designed as part of VW’s “electric family” of cars, the ID line. It made its world debut this week at the show.

With 155 miles of range, a high-voltage 62 kWh lithium ion battery, all-terrain tires, and an aluminum underbelly, this vehicle is made for off-roading. Its max speed is 99 mph and it can go from 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The two-seater has no doors and no roof, making it look like a funky, adventurous version of a VW Beetle.

Groovy. And electric.

Groovy. And electric.

Of course, there were “real” electric cars there, like Volvo’s Polestar 2 electric crossover and the forthcoming EQC and concept EQV van from Mercedes-Benz.

The EQC will be available later this year.

The EQC will be available later this year.

Image: Robert Hradil/Getty Images

While the EQV is a concept van.

While the EQV is a concept van.

Image: Robert Hradil/Getty Images)

The car show officially opens Thursday and runs until March 17.

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Sony venture arm invests in geocoding startup what3words

Sony’s venture capital arm has invested in what3words, the startup that has divided the entire world into 57 trillion 3-by-3 meter squares and assigned a three-word address to each one.

Financial details were not disclosed.

The startup’s novel addressing system isn’t the whole story. The ability to integrate what3words into voice assistants is what has piqued the interest and investment from Sony and others.

“what3words have solved the considerable problem of entering a precise location into a machine by voice. The dramatic rise in voice-activated systems calls for a simple voice geocoder that works across all digital platforms and channels, can be written down and spoken easily,” Sony Corporation’s senior vice president Toshimoto Mitomo said in a statement.

Last year, Daimler took a 10 percent stake in what3words, following an announcement in 2017 to integrate the addressing system into Mercedes’ new infotainment and navigation system — called the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, or MBUX. MBUX is now in the latest Mercedes A-Class and B-Class cars and Sprinter commercial vehicles. Owners of these new Mercedes-Benz vehicles are now able to navigate to an exact destination in the world by just saying or typing three words into the infotainment system.

Other companies are keen to follow Daimler’s lead. TomTom and ride-hailing services like Cabify recently announced plans to enable what3words navigation to precise locations.

And more could follow. The startup says it plans to use the investment from Sony to focus on more initiatives in the automotive space.

What3Words breaks the world down into phrases

If you’re down in ///joins.slides.predict you may want to visit ///history.writing.closets or, if you’ve got a little money to spend, try the Bananas Foster at ///cattle.excuse.luggage. Either way, don’t forget to stop by ///plotting.nest.reshape before you fly out.

If things go what3words way, that’s how you’ll be sending out addresses in the future. Founded by musician Chris Sheldrick and Cambridge mathematician Mohan Ganesalingam, the company has cut the world into three meter boxes that are identified by three words. Totonno’s Pizza in Brooklyn is at ///cats.lots.dame while the White House is at ///kicks.mirror.tops. Because there are only three words, you can easily find spots that have no addresses and without using cumbersome latitude and longitude coordinates.

The team created this system after finding that travelers found it almost impossible to find some out-of-the-way places. Tokyo, for example, is notoriously difficult to traverse via address while other situations – renting a Yurt in Alaska, for example – require constantly updated addresses that do not lend themselves to GPS coordinates. Instead, you can tell your driver to take you to ///else.impulse.broom and be done with it.

The team has raised £40 million and is currently working on systems to add their mapping API to industrial and travel partners. You can browse the map here.

“I organized live music events around the world. Often in rural places. HeIfound equipment, musicians and guests got lost. We tried to give coordinates but they were impossible to remember and communicate accurately,” said Sheldrick. “This is the only address solution designed for voice, and the only system using words and not alphanumeric codes.”

Obviously this will take some getting used to. The three words might get mispronounced, leading to some fun problems, but in general it might be good to way to get around the world in a post-modern way. After all, some of the spot names sound like poetry and if you don’t like it you can always just go to ///drills.dandelions.bounds.

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.