Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America – Pioneer of Digitalization
Sunnyvale, USA. In 1995, Mercedes-Benz became the first automotive manufacturer worldwide to open a research and development center in Silicon Valley. The brand with the three-pointed star had already recognized that not only the IT sector, but also the automotive future was being shaped here. Silicon Valley, one of the most creative places on earth, is remarkable not only for its spirit of innovation, it also stands for a unique culture of collaboration. This is how Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. (MBRDNA) is constantly pushing forward the networking of driver, vehicle and the outside world, as well as the digitalization of car and mobility. The innovative developments flow into Daimler AG’s worldwide R&D network. The research center in Sunnyvale now employs more than 240 people.
“Digitalization is one of the greatest opportunities facing the automotive industry,” says Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. “Our facility in Silicon Valley plays a significant role in that. Through the special spirit in this center, we are already successfully anticipating today the customer wishes of tomorrow. We are finding intelligent solutions to synchronize the development cycles of the web and consumer electronics with those of the automotive industry. This means we are bringing new technologies to the road even faster and more efficiently.”
The MBRDNA headquarters in Sunnyvale is part of the global R&D network and focuses on digitalization within the car sector. Mercedes-Benz has been consistently expanding its presence in Silicon Valley since 1995. The original workforce of 20 employed when the facility in Palo Alto first opened 20 years ago has now grown to more than 240 in Sunnyvale alone. Besides design, the increase in workforce over time also brought new areas of development for the mobility of the future, such as Autonomous Driving, Advanced User Experience Design and Machine Learning. Beyond automotive technologies, the Business Innovation team is developing new business models for mobility inspired by social and cultural trends. The best example of this is the “Boost by Benz” shuttle service, which drives children to sport or other leisure activities after school, thus taking the load off parents.
Interactive and intelligent
Rapid developments in the field of consumer electronics have altered customers’ expectations of their cars. Mercedes customers want to maintain their digital lifestyle when on the road, too. The Infotainment and User Interaction experts are thus designing, developing and testing technologies that enable seamless interaction between driver, vehicle and the outside world. This is best illustrated by the latest COMAND multimedia system with door-to-door navigation using the Apple watch. Mercedes-Benz already presented the idea of a fully internet-based infotainment system back in 2008 with myCOMAND. MBRDNA’s App Development Group has developed 30 apps in-house in 28 languages for 80 countries, thus helping customers with tasks such as finding a parking spot.
With a view to the future, development experts in Sunnyvale are also working on a particularly demanding technology under the headings Machine Learning and Predictive Engine. The Mercedes of the future will become an intelligent, automotive companion that recognizes the moods, desires and preferences of the driver and passengers and can proactively predict operating steps. This takes more pressure off the driver and delivers even greater comfort and convenience.
Intuitive and unique
Progress in connectivity, urban mobility and autonomous driving are fundamentally changing the relationship between driver and vehicle. Increasingly complex vehicle technologies call for human and intuitive operation. Therefore, Mercedes-Benz designers and developers are working closely together to devise emotional, intuitive and aesthetic User Experience Designs. One example is the current “Concept IAA” show car, featuring an interior that offers a definitive preview of a Mercedes-Benz business sedan of the near future.
A further example is the interface of the F 015 Luxury in Motion self-driving research vehicle. Various displays on the dashboard as well as on the rear and side walls offer passengers a wide array of options for interacting with the vehicle and the outside world.
The F 015 also shows what “Intelligent Drive” by Mercedes-Benz could look like tomorrow. The function of the car is transitioning even more from being purely a means of transport to being a comfortable place of retreat. Meanwhile, various teams in California are working in cooperation with their German co-workers on the foundations for autonomous driving. With the Bertha Benz Drive conducted in Germany in August 2013, Mercedes-Benz demonstrated that autonomous driving is possible in and out of town. Engineers are now using test drives in Californian traffic to extend the horizons of the “S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE” research vehicle and adapt it to American traffic regulations.