Knight Rider

Hey, Mercedes now has a touchscreen, voice-controlled dashboard

Mercedes-Benz auf der Consumer Electronics Show (CES, 2018) in Las Vegas
Hey Mercedes, how do I drive this thing? Source: Daimler AG

Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, the world’s largest maker of luxury cars, was a Tesla shareholder from 2009 to 2014, but it’s only now imitating its former investment by replacing its traditional instrument panels with touchscreens. Eleven years after Apple introduced its first iPhone and almost six years after Tesla started selling its luxury Model S, which has two screens, the German carmaker has now unveiled a new instrument panel at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show.

Perhaps because of the German habit of choosing prudence over innovation, Mercedes’ late move heralds a new era, saying goodbye to the often analog buttons and gauges of traditional Mercedes instrument panels. In the press release announcing the new feature, the company itself speaks of “a revolution in the cockpit.” The new dashboard, which will first become available in spring in its compact A-Class vehicles, carries two displays, including a touchscreen as well as touch-control buttons on the steering wheel.

Drivers can also control virtually all functions by voice, waking the on-board computer with the words, with “Hey, Mercedes.” The car will reply, “Speak now please” to signal its readiness and waking memories of David Hasselhoff and his speaking car KITT in the television series Knight Rider, albeit without the turbo boost wings and rocket launchers.

The digital panels will also include a touchpad, which recognizes handwriting, and an augmented reality feature, which can superimpose navigational information on top of live images. The displays run on Nvidia graphics chips previously only used in video games, Mercedes-Benz said. The company has even designed its own operating system, called MBUX, to run all the new features. The acronym stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, which is designed to adapt to the driver’s needs and habits, according to Mercedes.

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