Relaxed atmosphere with flexible working hours.

  • 4. November 2015
  • Connectivity
  • Illustration: DAIMLER
  • Text: Patrick Solberg

In 1995 Mercedes-Benz set up its own research and development centre in Silicon Valley. In close proximity to world-famous internet and computer pioneers, the purpose of the new facility was to create visionary concepts and production-ready products for cross-media networked vehicles.

With no fixed working hours, sunny terraces, meetings in cafés round the corner and, last but not least, the unique “Californian lifestyle”, the Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Center in Sunnyvale has a totally different look and feel to any of the Group’s other regional research and development centres. Side-by-side with the world’s IT greats since 1995, Daimler has been working on the future of the automobile.

Dr Eric Larsen has been there from the beginning as head of development. “Back then, we started out in a small shed with just 20 people,” he recalls. Arwed Niestroj, CEO MBRDNA, adds: “It’s just different —- more relaxed than elsewhere. No-one here cares where you come from or what you look like.” The majority of today’s 240 employees in Sunnyvale come to work in jeans, T-shirt and trainers.

The Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Center in Sunnyvale, situated a few miles south-east of Palo Alto, is between 45 and 90 minutes’ drive south of San Francisco, depending on the traffic. The look and feel of the place are more contemporary than ever.

If anyone comes up with an idea at a meeting, they simply draw it on the washable office wall using a felt-tip pen. If rejected, the idea is just wiped off with a sponge. Welcome to the future of work — made in Silicon Valley. Despite the seemingly casual approach of the people in Sunnyvale, this is a place that will ultimately play a key role in shaping the future of the Daimler Group.

The general focus is on machine learning and predictive engine, i.e. the ability of future vehicles to identify the driver’s wishes and preferences and to predict possible actions; the available tools include voice recognition and graphical interfaces for the next generation of vehicles.

Away from automotive technologies, the team from Business Innovation is developing new business models for mobility, such as the shuttle service “Boost by Benz”, which takes the pressure off parents by driving children to after-school sports events or other recreational activities.

Example of emotive, intuitive and aesthetic User Experience Design: the current concept vehicle 'Concept IAA', the interior of which gives a clear vision of a Mercedes-Benz business saloon of the near future.

Designers and engineers have developed operation and control concepts for research vehicles such as the self-driving F 015 Luxury in Motion or the Concept IAA. “We’ve developed such things as the first multimedia interface and 30 apps for over 80 countries in 28 languages for six different infotainment systems,” says Ralf Lamberti, Director of User Interaction & Security. One of the teams is currently working on the next highlight, which will be unveiled at the CES in Las Vegas in 2016.

One of the things Lamberti values about the Valley is the small new enterprises that are keen to present their innovative ideas on technologies and business models. “We speak to them, we listen to them, we learn from them and, where it makes sense, we come together. After 20 years of intensive – often personal — networking with the giants and the minnows, we’ve become a part of things.”

The F 015 shows what tomorrow's 'Intelligent Drive' from Mercedes-Benz might look like. With a programme of test drives in Californian traffic, the engineers are currently working to broaden the horizon of the 'S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE' research vehicle and are adapting US traffic regulations.

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