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Mercedes MBUX Infotainment Goes Full Tech Bro at CES

An AI voice assistant, NFT artwork, onboard entertainment from Sony, integration of Audible's interface, and even a music production feature with backing from will.i.am will soon roll out to eligible models.

  • Mercedes-Benz has announced a slew of high-tech upgrades to its MBUX infotainment system at the 2024 CES technology show (formerly called the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
  • In addition to a more advanced AI voice assistant, the system also features integration of Amazon Music, Audible, and Sony Pictures Entertainment content libraries.
  • Unexpected options include a music production app called Sound Drive and an app designed to show off your prized NFTs.

Few have accused Mercedes-Benz's MBUX infotainment system of lacking features, and its appearance in the brand's electric EQ models via the wall-to-wall Hyperscreen displays is already quite fanciful. But new features are rolling out to the system soon, all previewed today at the 2024 CES show in Las Vegas.

The enhancements include an expected evolution of the system's voice assistant, which now uses more sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) to provide more natural interactions. Notably, the system can deliver more empathetic responses and inflections. It's even capable of sarcasm, according to Mercedes. Be careful not to fall in love.

Ambient interior lighting illuminates in different colors, and haptic feedback embedded in the seats helps the virtual assistant get its message across. It also learns a driver's daily routine and can access information in the user's calendar to make suggestions. For example, if it notices that you're running late for a meeting it may offer to call into the meeting virtually so you can take that conference call from the road.

Content Streaming

Talking to a computer isn't the only improvement being included in this round of updates. In-car gaming will also be added, thanks to a partnership with Antstream Arcade. The streaming game platform features vintage classics from Atari, Nintendo, and Sega. Sony Pictures Entertainment has also been tapped to provide film and TV content, accessed via an app called Ridevu.

But these features aren't only for when the car is parked or charging. Mercedes says that drivers using its level 3 autonomous driving system—currently only usable in California, Nevada, and Germany—will be able to sit and watch a movie or play a video game from their childhood.

Immersive Audio

If you're outside of the autonomous driving system's service area, or simply are too nervous to try focusing on a mini-series while your car takes over controls, Mercedes has also announced new partnerships for audio content streaming. Amazon Music and Audible, a brand that specializes in audiobooks and podcasts, will both be integrated into MBUX and optimized for the stereo system's Dolby Atmos spatial audio capability.

Big names from Hollywood have been cast to star in Audible's so-called "audio movies" including Gillian Anderson, Michael Sheen, and James McAvoy. Layered sound effects accompany the voice acting to enhance the storytelling.

The Unexpected

Here's where it gets weird. Not only will MBUX gain a feature set up to display your NFTs, it will also include a new concept called Sound Drive, which will allow drivers to play their car like a musical instrument.

Rapper and music producer will.i.am collaborated with the company to make Sound Drive happen. The system relies on inputs to the throttle, brakes, regenerative braking, and steering to influence whatever song is playing. So the driver isn't so much a musician as a DJ.

The resulting melodies don't include the spaceship-esque whirring you're used to hearing from electric vehicles, though. The music produced by the system can vary from high-energy pop tunes to more subdued ones depending on how the driver is driving. Spirited driving speeds up the tempo while coming to a stop slows things down and reduces the intensity of the vocals.

"I can't think of another dimension of creativity," will.i.am said during his presentation of the technology. "Yes, the sample was important in the 1980s and 1990s. Yes, the computer was awesome . . . but this is a dimensional shift in the process.”

Whether or not AMG and Benz drivers will grow followings on SoundCloud or not, the Sound Drive system is a unique use of the MBUX system's hardware. Sound Drive will appear on Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Benz vehicles starting in mid-2024 and will be available via over-the-air update for models equipped with the second-generation MBUX platform.