This Mercedes turns up the heat -- in your houseWed, 08 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800
Mercedes-Benz brought some interesting and unusual examples of in-car connectivity tech to Las Vegas, partnering with some trendsetters in the electronics game -- namely, Nest Labs, Pebble, and Google. The connectivity and app technology will eventually make its way into the C-, the E- and the S-slass.
Get it? C, E, S?
Key to Benz's push toward the electronic frontier is Digital DriveStyle -- aimed at the hipsters, trendsetters and flashy millennials who are expected (expected by Mercedes--Ed.) to buy the CLA. Well, of course. Digital DriveStyle can read out your Facebook timeline, rendering the vapidity of your friends' cold weather complaints tangible and in mobile form. It also connects to Twitter, Internet radio, Garmin-powered navigation, real-time traffic, 3D building views, and Google Street View.
Last September, Mercedes started a partnership with Nest Labs, the Silicon Valley start-up that makes arguably the most cutting-edge thermostat in the world, proving that thermostats can be exciting and desirable gadgets. The first example of this experimental Nest integration in a Mercedes is a car-based app that can tell your Nest thermostat that you are nearly home, allowing Nest to turn the temperature to wherever you've programmed it.
Expect this to be available on Digital DriveStyle starting this spring.
The partnership with Nest allows it access to Nest's software development kit. Mercedes and Nest promise future interactions between the car and the home -- but that will also coincide with whatever Nest rolls out next.
Mercedes also developed a prototype for the Pebble smartwatch that will let owners control car functions from their wrist: lock and unlock the doors, determine how much range is left, heat and cool the vehicle -- without turning it on, it must be noted -- and find your car with GPS directions, thereby preventing a "Dude, Where's My Car?" sequel from ever being optioned. All this can be accomplished "from the couch," Mercedes tech demoers quipped.
This, as a design study, is sadly too futuristic to be available to the public. But when the B-class Electric Drive reaches American shores later this year, there will be a Vehicle Homepage available for mobile devices that will allow users to accomplish most of the tasks mentioned above, along with something called "Eco Challenge" that displays the energy usage of your last drive and guilt trips you into doing better next time.
Lastly, for 2014 Digital DriveStyle can also link to Google+, showcasing a driver's circle of friends and displaying posts on the center screen (only when parked, of course). This marks Mercedes-Benz as the first car company to integrate the lonely and oft-lampooned social network, which doesn't exactly rank among the crumple zone and the anti-lock braking system as a proud Mercedes first.
Blake Z. Rong
On the more analog side of things, the S-Class Coupe will feature a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 and 455 horsepower.
This cavalcade of smartphone technology comes with updates on the future of the cars themselves. Mercedes parked onstage the S-class Coupe, unveiled in Frankfurt and slated to enter production with minimal changes. There was also a virtual preview, enabled via iPad, of the 2015 C-class, which had been previously announced for a debut in Detroit.
And while Audi has the limelight for autonomous driving -- culminating this year with a parking demonstration outside the Las Vegas Convention Center -- Mercedes hasn't been resting idly. It has covered many autonomous miles in Germany, including retracing the original 103-kilometer drive of Karl Benz' wife Bertha from Mannheim to Pforzheim over a century ago, though the retraced route was done this time in an autonomous S-class. In the production version of the current S-class, some autonomy is available through a feature cumbersomely named "Stop&Go Pilot," a $3,000 option in Europe. But alas, explained a Mercedes-Benz engineer, full autonomy requires more testing on high-speed autobahns -- and, alas, is still 10 years away.
Both Audi and Mercedes-Benz have used the phrase "driving pleasure" to describe their autonomous technology -- suggesting that the definition of "driving pleasure" means doing as little actual driving as possible. In Mercedes' case, driving might get in the way of checking your Google+ circle. Fortunately, your Nest thermostat knows that you'll be home soon, anyway.
By Blake Z. Rong