Mercedes-Benz has teamed up with Hughes Telematics to begin offering a new system that allows drivers to enable dozens of their vehicles features with their Apple iPhone or Blackberry.

Dubbed "mbrace," the telematics setup covers everything from locking and unlocking doors to contacting roadside assistance and pinpointing an mbrace-equipped Mercedes-Benz in a parking lot.

The system will be included on all new Mercedes products, and current customers with the automaker's outgoing Tele Aid system are eligible to retrofit their aging Mercs with mbrace. The technology could also be used to stream music from the web, upload video content and connect to users PCs, however, that's further down the road. The system is available now for $280 a year, and you can get all the details in the press release below the fold.

[Source: Mercedes-Benz]


PRESS RELEASE

Mercedes-Benz USA and Hughes Telematics Launch New Telematics Service: mbrace(TM)

New in-vehicle technology lays the foundation for unprecedented connectivity and customization options for drivers, improving safety, security and productivity


Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) and Hughes Telematics, Inc. (HTI) today launched mbrace(TM), a new telematics offering that brings an unprecedented level of connectivity to Mercedes-Benz drivers and begins the process of allowing them to customize their in-vehicle experiences to fit their daily needs. Powered by HTI, mbrace is now available on all new Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold through authorized dealers in the United States, and mbrace replaces Tele Aid, which was the previous telematics system that MBUSA has offered for the past 10 years, for such vehicles. In addition, most current Mercedes-Benz owners with the Tele Aid system will be eligible to upgrade to the new mbrace system.

"When we first launched our Telematics platform it contained features many vehicles still lack today, and now we want to take our offering to the next level," said Sascha Simon, director of advanced product planning, MBUSA. "With mbrace, we begin the introduction of a whole new generation of innovative and personalized services that fit our drivers' mobile lifestyles, keeping them connected to the people, places and services that are important to them and offering them enhanced safety, security and navigation options. Most importantly, the flexibility of Hughes Telematics' architecture will also allow us to continually add new features and innovations that will keep Mercedes-Benz on the forefront of in-vehicle services."

Specifically, mbrace personifies "connected services" by marking the first time drivers can connect with their vehicles via an iPhone(TM) or BlackBerry(TM), allowing them to do such things as remotely lock or unlock their vehicles or locate their vehicles in crowded parking lots or on city streets through a map representation on their smart phones. The flexibility of combining HTI's platform with today's leading smartphone offerings allows for a continual stream of in-vehicle innovation throughout the life of a vehicle's ownership.

"Hughes Telematics is excited to be working with Mercedes-Benz as we introduce the next generation of connected services to customers," said Erik Goldman, president, HTI. "This platform upon which mbrace is built is designed with the most flexibility in the industry allowing Mercedes-Benz to continuously innovate with new services and features."

The mbrace system offers 18 features (five of which are part of a premium package) aggregated in the categories of safety & security, navigation & destination planning and convenience. The services can be accessed quickly and easily from within the vehicle or from any computer through a personalized web portal.

The standard mbrace safety and security features include: Automatic Collision Notification; SOS/Emergency Calling; Safe Ride; Roadside Assistance Connection (in-vehicle and mobile application); Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance; Automatic Alarm Notification; Vehicle Information and Crisis Assist. Navigation services include a Search & Send feature. Standard convenience features include: Remote Door Unlock and Lock (remote application), Vehicle Finder (via mobile application), and Dealer Connect (mobile application). A premium service -- mbrace PLUS -- adds such features as Location-Based Weather, Location-Based Traffic, agent-assisted Route Assistance, Point-of-Interest Destination Download (through agent), and "Mercedes-Benz Concierge," which functions much as a hotel concierge making restaurant reservations, locating stores and services, cash wire assistance, etc.