Mercedes’ latest A-Class has enjoyed a positive reception from the world’s media following its reveal earlier this year. One of the features widely discussed is Daimler’s focus on User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). Harman’s senior vice-president of operations Daimler, Connected Car Division, Gerhard Nuessle, offers IoT Now an insight into some of the innovations and background to the MBUX project that debuts in the A-Class.
Q: Can you give us an introduction to the MBUX system?
A: Daimler’s new infotainment system, known as MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) is the marque’s latest interactive telematics platform. Co-developed with Harman, it launches in the new A-Class that has now entered mass production and is on sale shortly. It’s a highly advanced infotainment platform that incorporates Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Over The Air (OTA) updates for what we are calling the world’s first intelligent and future proof infotainment system.
Q: It’s claimed that MBUX is the industry’s most powerful infotainment system. Can you tell us why this is?
A: There are a number of factors that back up the claim. First, the intuitive system will be a step-change for users, offering outstanding graphics power, audio capacity, augmented reality technology and speech recognition.
MBUX is also an intelligent infotainment system, characterised by its ability to learn using AI. Based upon one of the most powerful SoCs (system on chip) by Nvidia, it offers state of the art computing power and can learn user preference and behaviour to create a very personal experience. For example, it can suggest what music to play based on previous choices and it can learn your routines, automatically programming daily commutes into the navigation system, as well as providing the latest traffic updates and fastest routes.
Q: There seems to be a focus on personalisation with this system, why is this?
A: It was felt that there was a chance to build a better connection between the car and user through personalisation. Examples of this include the voice-controlled interface that can learn the preferences of the user, allowing for high levels of personalisation. It was modelled on the way users can personalise their smartphone, grouping frequently used applications together and prioritising the most used.
Q: How is the system operated?
A: The system allows users to switch between voice and steering wheel and central console touch controls easily. This offers flexibility for the user to choose their preferred method for controlling the features. In terms of interface, we feel that the UX matches that found in today’s popular consumer devices.
Q: How does the Voice Activation work?
A: Voice activation is driven by a very powerful natural language system that is both fast and smooth in operation. The embedded speech engine, created by partner company, Nuance, runs in parallel with The Cloud. This method avoids hardware capability limits and means that the computing resources needed for complex processing, such as memory and CPU, are not limited.
As the speech engine is running both in the embedded system and in The Cloud, the system can then make a choice as to which to use based on the one with the highest score. The embedded engine will typically be used when driving through areas of poor signal such as in car parks or the countryside. In most cases The Cloud engine will be providing additional information to the voice-based results, giving better recognition accuracy and a better user experience.
It’s intelligent too. The voice control not only understands literal commands but can understand figurative orders too. If a user tells the MBUX ‘I am too cold’, the system will raise the vehicle’s internal temperature settings. The speech dialogue and message flow were engineered by the Daimler UI team.
Q: We have heard that MBUX uses Over The Air updates. What are the benefits of this?
A: OTA software updates keep everything current, including navigation and map data. This allows the system to follow technology and market trends even once the car has been sold and is out in the market.
As updates are made through the telematics module which is connected to the Daimler Cloud, the telematics unit can update other components in the car, not just the infotainment system. With the technology already in place, it just depends on component capacity to ensure the system remains future proof.
As well as keeping car systems up to date, it can maintain up to date information required for services, POI, restaurants, fuel prices and traffic etc – whatever is of interest to the consumer.
Q: Are OTA updates safe/secure?
A: Daimler can essentially mitigate all security risks as updates are made through this connection to the Daimler Cloud via the telematics module. OTA software updates also run seamlessly in the background, once updates are ready, they require the end user to approve.
All Mercedes- Benz vehicles include an LTE module, with connectivity managed by a telematics control unit in the car. The updates are managed by Harman’s Red Bend technology which is now integrated into the Daimler back end.
The LTE module can be used for multiple purposes, such as all the Mercedes Benz media services, from door locks to getting the best prices for hotels etc. and can also be used to update components in the car.
Q: How does MBUX use Augmented Reality?
A: The augmented reality (AR) features are an extension of the navigation system, combining turn by turn directions with AR visuals. Guidance advice is then overlaid onto the real time video which is played on the infotainment display screen – especially useful at complex crossings or junctions.
For example, if a driver is first in the queue at a traffic light, rather than having to lean forwards to watch for the lights to change, MBUX uses the external cameras to show the traffic lights on the display of the infotainment screen. Also, if the user is driving towards a particular house on a long street, the system will overlay house numbers on the video picture displayed on the touch screen display.
The author of this blog is Gerhard Nuessle, senior vice-president operations, Harman