Pioneering feat: 20 years of Mercedes-Benz in Silicon Valley.
Spirit of innovation for the automotive future.
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 recognised 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 digitalisation of car and mobility. The innovative developments flow into the worldwide Research & Development network of the Daimler AG. The research centre in Sunnyvale now employs more than 240 people.
New technologies for the road.
“Digitalisation is one of the greatest opportunities facing the automotive industry,” says Prof. Dr Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
“Our facility in Silicon Valley plays a significant role in that. Through the special spirit in this centre, today we are already successfully anticipating the customer wishes of tomorrow. We are finding intelligent solutions to synchronise 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.”
Consistently expanded presence.
The MBRDNA headquarters in Sunnyvale part of the global Research & Development network and focus on digitalisation within the car sector. The Mercedes-Benz site 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, over time the increase in the workforce also brought new areas of development for 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 sports or other leisure activities after school, thus taking the load off parents.
Interactive and intelligent infotainment.
Rapid developments in the field of consumer electronics have altered customers’ expectations of their cars. Customers of Mercedes-Benz 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 Online multimedia system with door-to-door navigation using the Apple watch. Mercedes-Benz already presented the idea of a fully internet-based infotainment system with myCOMAND back in 2008. The App Development Group of MBRDNA has developed 30 apps in house in 28 languages for 80 countries, thus helping customers with tasks such as finding a parking spot.
A view to the future.
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-Benz of the future will become an intelligent, automotive companion that recognises 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.
Human and intuitive operation.
Progress in connectivity, urban mobility and autonomous driving is 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 saloon 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.
Autonomous and networked.
The F 015 Luxury in Motion 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.