Mercedes-Benz is building its very own in-car operating system
The German car maker reins it all in-house
Mercedes-Benz has previewed its brand-new purpose-built operating system, MB.OS. It means future Mercedes cars will run supercomputers and a comprehensive suite of sensors as it climbs towards more self-driving functionality.
MB.OS is purpose-built software, using chip-to-cloud architecture to power an all-new infotainment suite and autonomous driving features. At the same time as revealing the new Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA), which MB.OS is built on, the German brand has also disclosed details of a special relationship with Google to create the next-gen navigation system - which essentially puts all things Google Maps integrated into the car.
The really interesting bit - to get our super-nerd on - is the Chip-to-cloud IoT (Internet of Things) stuff. It mitigates the chances of bad actors breaching devices because the direct relationship to the cloud removes potential gateways for hackers to exploit. Robust cyber security is especially important to Merc’s future, for a highly connected, lounge-like cabin and self-driving car ambitions.
Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz, was in conference with his chief tech officer, Markus Schäfer, during which they deployed a Google 'Places Details' function over-the-air as they presented (it was as dramatic as it sounds). They were keen to emphasise the security improvements made by adopting chip-to-cloud architecture, which will be central to every future Mercedes-Benz product.
Källenius said: “MB.OS all centres around a unique customer ID. The car knows you, it knows who you are… [and we believe in] privacy by design. We are transparent with our customers. In the Mercedes-Benz Centre, you can choose your settings. We have a philosophy, to work in the interests of the customer and we use the highest standards of encryption available in the market today.”
Though they didn't say how this would work with car-sharing models, the executives of the car-maker-turned-luxury-and-tech-car-maker (so car maker for short, then) were as excited as any Scandi-German duo could wearing suits, when talking about the wealth of entertainment options MB.OS is going to support.
From gaming to movie streaming and conference-calling, the new operating system expects to ‘elevate the infotainment experience’. Not least because personalised scenting, a full screen width and sophisticated audio suite will be cinematic by design. Merc also states the infotainment package will be “vastly superior to smartphone mirroring”, but the brand has confirmed it won’t be doing away with Apple Carplay and Android Auto just yet. It will have an API supported by Android (Google, again) in the UK, so selected third-parties can get in on the action.
Connectivity is a key part of MB.OS, with an automotive ethernet connection forming the backbone of the software layer. Talking in detail about the autonomous driving potential, Mercedes is hoping to support self-driving speeds of up to 80mph. Self-driving standards have been set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). It’s developed a system to denote levels of autonomy, where zero is no autonomy and five is full autonomy.
Mercedes currently supports SAE Level 2 - partial autonomy - which is the lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control combo we’re already fairly familiar with. MB.OS will support SAE Level 3 autonomous driving, which is ‘conditional self-driving’ i.e. you’re in a specific ‘self-driving’ lane on the motorway or the traffic jam ‘chauffeur’, which moves you forward in congestion without you needing to pay attention, regulated in UK law last year to speeds of 37mph maximum. Mercedes, with its reliable German market and autobahn conditions wants to go faster though.
The brand has poured tonnes of cash into research and development around self-driving cars and so the news that it’s building proprietary architecture to support this comes as no surprise. Schafer has been clear about what the brand is already capable of, previously citing computer-piloted overtaking, but regulation plays a big role and authorities are being cautious about how quickly they allow such technology to be introduced.
While this proprietary system seems fiercely ‘in-house’, Merc is working with selected partners to deliver this new software platform. Luminar is providing Lidar sensors, Nvidia Drive is powering the artificial intelligence capabilities and remote updates. Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, said: "[The] decision to put in supercomputers [means MB is] building a giant fleet of cars that will never get old. We’re building the safest supercomputer together - this car will be entirely upgradable. Mercedes Benz will be software defined from end-to-end and will reinvent the company as a luxury-focused, software-driven technology company."
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