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Mercedes-Benz integrates iPhone, Siri into all-new A-Class

Posted Feb 24th 2012 6:15PM

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The paradigm has shifted. Normally an automaker's range-topper gets the latest and greatest technology, but with the introduction of the all-new A-Class, Mercedes-Benz is flipping that order on its head.

At next month's Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes will show off the next A-Class and with it, its updated COMAND infotainment system. The user interface has undergone a complete overhaul, ditching the black and beige color scheme for a sharp, modern, three-dimensional design and a range of new features and functions, nearly all of which are centered on the iPhone 4S.

The new Digital DriveStyle app allows drivers to stream AUPEO! radio (Europe's equivalent to Pandora), connect with Facebook and Twitter to read out status updates, find your car in a crowded parking lot and get real-time traffic data and point-of-interest searches through a new Garmin navigation system. All of which is available with the entry-level "Audio 20" setup.

More intriguingly, Mercedes is the first automaker to support and integrate Apple's Siri voice-recognition technology, allowing users to make appointments, send text messages and emails, get weather status and access all their songs through voice commands.

While all these features will be limited to the Euro-only A-Class at first, Mercedes says that the iPhone-integrated COMAND Online suite of services will be coming to the B-, C- and E-Class models this fall. Hit the jump for the full details.
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The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is "always on": Mercedes-Benz puts the iPhone® on wheels

Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz is making smartphones mobile and ensuring that such electronic assistants will in future be fully linked into the car's infotainment system.

First off the blocks is the Apple® iPhone®, which Mercedes-Benz has now integrated comprehensively into the user experience concept of the new A-Class, as the first automotive manufacturer in the world to take this step. Thanks to a new "Digital DriveStyle App", developed in-house, together with the "Drive Kit Plus for the Apple® iPhone®", drivers can now access all the key content of their Apple® iPhone® through the in-vehicle display and enjoy safe and convenient operation of the device via the Controller on the center armrest. The attractive 'look' is ensured by the revolutionary user interface design. In a further world premiere, Mercedes-Benz will enable access to the voice-based intelligent companion Siri™ in the vehicle. This allows natural speech input, without the need for specific commands, to send messages, select music tracks and check the weather forecast or stock prices, as well as to make appointments. All the iPhone® integration functions can be used even with the entry-level Audio 20 system.

This seamless integration of the Apple® iPhone® into the vehicle, in conjunction with the new revolutionary user interface design, means that Mercedes-Benz is now able to offer the Facebook generation its natural home on four wheels, in the form of the new A-Class. Along with Facebook, Twitter and so on, the "Digital DriveStyle App" developed by Daimler offers further services and content to suit the digital lifestyle and will be available to download free of charge from the Apple® iTunes® store. Its highlights include:

Personalised internet radio by AUPEO! Personal Radio, which offers radio stations that compile an individual program for listeners and recommend similar music by genre or artists based on personal taste.

The advanced navigation software from Garmin, with internet-based real-time traffic information, online POI searches and 3D map display, all of which work even in combination with the entry-level multimedia system Audio 20

A socially interactive experience involving "sharing", "posting" and the integration of music and other content from social networks including text-to-speech.

An intuitive 'Car Finder' which automatically stores the vehicle's location. Pedestrian navigation makes it completely easy to find your way back to the car.

Access to the voice-based intelligent companion Siri™.

New here is also the contextual and location-based display of menu content under the headings "Social", "Media" and "Places". The basic logic behind this was presented by Daimler for the first time in January of this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Appearing under the heading "Social", for example, are the various friends and latest news from the social networks.

The user interface design is unique and revolutionary. Transparent symbols are illuminated in red to create three-dimensionally arranged navigation levels. Within the three-dimensional illustration provided by this menu structure, the user can move intuitively between the various functions in fluid, animated transitions. The user interface concept was designed and implemented by designers and engineers in the Mercedes-Benz research and development center in Palo Alto, California/USA. Enlarging the display of content on the screen to an appropriate format for use in a vehicle and allowing it to be controlled through the ergonomically positioned Controller on the center armrest makes operating the system both safe and easy.

The iPhone® is connected through an interface developed by Mercedes-Benz Accessories GmbH. This allows content to be fed directly from the graphics output of the device to the display of the vehicle. At the same time, the iPhone® is both powered and charged automatically while it is being used.

Full iPhone® integration is not only possible in conjunction with the COMAND Online multimedia system. All functions, including navigation, can also be used even with the entry-level Audio 20 system. Mercedes-Benz is thus making it possible for the A-Class's younger target group in particular to continue their digital lifestyle seamlessly inside the vehicle. Both the "Digital DriveStyle App" and the "Drive Kit Plus for the Apple® iPhone®" will be making their debut in the new A-Class, which will be celebrating its world premiere at this year's Geneva Motor Show, and are also planned to be available from autumn 2012 for the B-, C- and E-Class.

Always at your service: the voice-based intelligent companion Siri™
As the first automotive manufacturer to do so, Mercedes-Benz will be introducing Siri™ in a vehicle with easy access to it from the "Digital DriveStyle App". While conventional voice recognition software demands the use of specific spoken commands, Siri™ understands natural speech patterns and will even ask questions in return should more information be needed in order to complete a given task.

Siri™ is a function of the latest iPhone® generation, 4S, and acts as a personal assistant. Given verbal instructions, for example, it will access the personal calendar to make or decline requests for appointments or meetings. SMS text messages can be dictated or read out, and emails sent. Siri™ can also be used as a convenient way of accessing the complete range of music stored on an iPhone® or to request the latest weather forecast.
Always up-to-date: COMAND Online with Cloud technology and

Mercedes-Benz App Shop
Safe and convenient access to the internet on the move is already available in a whole series of Mercedes-Benz models: the fully integrated multimedia system COMAND Online was introduced in 2011. As well as innovative applications such as Google Local Search including Google Street View and Panoramio, Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer to offer the option of sending individually preconfigured routes from Google Maps on a PC to the vehicle. The internet connection that is required for the functions in COMAND Online is established via a mobile telephone Bluetooth link and a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). Mercedes-Benz is firmly convinced that the future lies with cloud computing. The software used in the COMAND Online applications is not stored in the vehicle, but runs off the Daimler Vehicle Backend. The advantage of this is that applications can be continually updated in the cloud, and new applications released to Mercedes-Benz customers, without the need to visit a workshop.

In this sense on March 31st, 2012 a new Mercedes-Benz App to access News will be available to COMAND Online customers. Additionally, Mercedes-Benz Apps for COMAND Online will be offered soon in the new Mercedes-Benz App Shop. The first two Mercedes-Benz Apps to become available in the App Shop will be the Parking Finder and Morningstar Finance, that offers access to stock prices.

It is planned to introduce a dozen or so new applications each year. To this end, Daimler has set up App Development Groups in both Palo Alto, California/USA, and Bangalore, India.

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