MBUX is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience and saw its debut last year at CES and it made it on to the street in the A-Class. The natural language capabilities of the MBUX were ahead of most of their competitors in terms of how you controlled the car’s features and navigation.
All you have to do to interact with MBUX is say “Hey Mercedes” and phrases like “I’m cold, or find I’m looking for a Vietnamese restaurant nearby or more important things like what’s the quickest way to get out of Las Vegas”. Competitors like Audi have gotten better at implementing natural language however, the linguistics database Mercedes created seem to provide a wider range of options for how you ask the car to do things.
Let’s be clear, even at the top of its game during my test drive of the A-Class MBUX is still only half as good as Google’s Assistant. Who to me and your average consumer sets the bar.
Where the version of the MBUX that will be released in the CLA which was announced at CES this week gets really interesting is the use of the hybrid cloud.
Hybrid is a cloud infrastructure that mixes a private and public cloud, and in the latest MBUX it means that you will have more functionality available to you offline.
Being able to respond to some information based commands offline is the first step to solve the biggest problem in car voice assistance face today.
In Croatia when I drove the A-Class I went from having a love affair with the car and it’s Easter eggs telling me it loved me to hard rage. There is nothing more frustrating then a system the basically stops working when it loses connectivity. Sure I could still adjust the climate control, but I wasn’t able to input anything into the navigation system, existing navigation still worked, but no connection, no useful interactions.
It might seem a little demanding that I expect the car to work without an internet connection. I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors if I simply accepted that car companies have come shockingly far in a short period of time and didn’t hold them accountable to the fast-moving goal post of interacting with your smartphone.
In this case, the phone has fewer issues when it comes to connectivity, it typically doesn’t move as quickly, the speed it changes location is different than how you usually use a smartphone. Of course, you use your phone in a car, but I’m sure you’ve noticed connectivity issues using your phone at high speeds.
This evolution appears to be the result of an announcement made at the Mercedes-Benz booth after the official press event. Mercedes-Benz Executive Vice President Sajjad Khan and NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang unveiled their vision for the next-generation of AI vehicles. “We’re announcing a new partnership going forward, creating a computer that defines the future of autonomous vehicles, the future of AI and the future of mobility,” said Huang.
The Hybrid cloud that will be rolling out in the CLA, and eventually the A-Class, will use Ai to predict where you’re driving the most and make some information available offline. Things like restaurant search or adding gas stations to an existing route would be possible even without connectivity.
The addition of the hybrid cloud to MBUX is a significant step forward for infotainment systems. Not just MBUX but for the product category.
Huang stated that “the car of the future is software defined”. Beyond the infotainment system, we should expect a single system to provide self-driving capabilities to replace dozens of smaller processors inside current cars. Khan noted that “We are working on a totally other different technology together with NVIDIA to use AI in our products to lead the way in today’s megatrends,”.
Leveraging Nvidia’s AI expertise MBUX will adapt itself to drivers and passengers. Things like automatically suggesting your favorite music for the drive home, or offering directions to a loved restaurant at dinner time. It’s also one that will benefit from “over-the-air” updates delivering new features and capabilities.
MBUX will launch this spring in the company’s compact vehicles, starting with the A-Class hatchback in Europe and followed closely by the next-generation CLA and GLA models in North America. Most other new Mercedes models will eventually adopt the system over the next two or three years.