will.i.am making Mercedes-Benz cars scream and shout with new interactive tech

Mercedes-Benz has partnered with musical artist will.i.am to create an “interactive music experience” for vehicles equipped with the second-generation MBUX system.

The system is expected to be rolled out in mid-2024 through over-the-air updates across several models, including Mercedes-AMG products.

The interactive system combines sensors and software to “compose” musical expressions in real-time. It uses the driver’s interaction with the vehicle including recuperation, acceleration, steering and braking to form these musical notes.

“In-car signals” such as the windscreen wipers’ rain sensors can also interact with MBUX Sound Drive to create “soothing rhythms during inclement weather to reduce stress and enhance concentration”.

“Imagine a world where your car can become an instrument creating musical journeys. MBUX Sound Drive enhances driving and sound technology, letting motorists reshape music just by driving,” said will.i.am at the announcement at this year’s CES tech show in Las Vegas.

“I’m excited to see how composers, producers, and songwriters will harness this to create new works and reimagine classics for motorist to drive to.

“MBUX Sound Drive is not only a new frontier for music creation, but also opens up fresh, exciting and interactive listening experiences for drivers.”

This isn’t will.i.am’s first collaboration with the carmaker. In May 2022, he co-designed a one-off Mercedes-AMG with combined the front end of a G-Class with the rear of an AMG GT 4-Door.

There are other new features coming to MBUX-equipped vehicles, which will be added via over-the-air updates.

Starting in the first quarter of 2024, customers with access to Digital Extras, including E-Class owners, will have access to new applications through the MBUX interface including Microsoft Teams, booking.com and Just Eat. Mercedes-Benz also has plans to integrate cloud-based retro gaming from Antstream Arcade.

Users will also gain access to Ridevu – a streaming service owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment. It will allow streaming of on-demand video content.

From the third quarter of 2024, Mercedes-Benz will offer users access to Audible and Amazon Music which includes a range of podcasts, audiobooks, and music in Dolby Atmos. This will be available for the E-Class and CLE running the third-generation MBUX system.

The company also took the opportunity to announce new AI-powered software which will provide a “hyper-personalised” user experience.

The following features will be available for customers with the Mercedes-Benz Operating System (MB.OS) which will debut sometime around 2025 with the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) platform.

“Hey Mercedes” virtual assistant

The “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant will be upgraded to be the “most human-like interface” in a Mercedes-Benz yet.

The system will be able to communicate with the driver and passengers using new “natural and empathetic” interactions. The system can express different speaking styles including a neutral voice which the brand says “generates a sense of empathy”.

The virtual assistant has four personality traits: natural, predictive, personal and empathetic. The system has been designed to take commands with or without using the keyword “Hey Mercedes”.

It can have a conversation with the driver or passengers and predict the path of conversation and query.

The system will use AI-based learning to understand the driver’s routine and anticipate regular behaviour like playing the news in the morning or turning on a massage after work.

The software can combine vehicle features for a holistic user experience. For example, the ambient lighting and sound system can be activated to provide warm light and soft music while the driver enjoys a relaxing massage.

It will be able to calculate if a driver is running late for a meeting based on calendar time and location data and offer the driver the ability to dial in from the car. The driver will be able to see the other members of the call on the infotainment display screen.

This can be run from Google Meet, Zoom, WebEx and other similar approved applications.

Navigation enhancements

Drivers will benefit from an advanced MBUX Surround Navigation which will allow drivers to “see what the car sees”.

The system will be able to display objects around the vehicle including potential hazards within a single glance to the driver. In addition, surroundings like buildings will be more easily recognisable for drivers.

Child presence detection

Mercedes-Benz has yet to detail how the software works however according to one image from the announcement, it appears vehicles equipped with MB.OS will use sensors to detect if children have been left behind in the rear seats.

The system will be able to recognise breathing patterns in the vehicle and sound an alarm 10 seconds after the doors have been locked to alert the driver of the child.

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