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Hughes Telematics recently announced its partnership with Mercedes-Benz on the automaker's new line of "mbrace" mobile telematics solutions. The system, which connects mbrace-equipped vehicles with an app installed on the user's Apple iPhone or RIM Blackberry, allows people to lock and unlock their doors, contact roadside assistance, get in touch with a local dealer or find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot. It's a relatively trick technology that we spent some time with at the LA Auto Show, and there's plenty of potential on the horizon.
Although the functionality is pretty basic so far, it's seamlessly integrated with the vehicle and covers the most essential elements of telematics setup.

The user logs in and enters a pin (required every time you use the app for security and safety reasons) and then can choose between three tabs:
  • Vehicle: Lock and unlock doors, vehicle location and assistance
  • Dealer: Contact a local dealer or find one nearby
  • Account: Manage your account with M-B, make payments, etc.
The interface on the iPhone is decidedly more sexy than the Blackberry – no surprise considering the age of RIM's OS – but both systems work as advertised and the potential for expansion is easy to envision.

Hughes representatives hinted at the possibility of diagnostic, maintenance reminders and a summary of daily driving information (mpg, fuel efficiency, miles traveled, etc.), along with integration with the vehicle's navigation system to find preferred routes to and from a location based on traffic conditions. Nothing revolutionary, but that's not what it's about – it's about integration. The rest will flow as the systems get more complex and assimilated into the vehicle's internal systems. Naturally, there's plenty of talk about lifestyle applications, covering music, messaging, note-taking and other seemingly simple programs currently available on most smartphones.

The mbrace system launched on November 16th, and as previously covered, owners of older Mercedes vehicles (as far back as 1999) can upgrade for a nominal fee. If you're not toting around an iPhone or Blackberry, fret not, Hughes is looking into other mobile OSs (Android, WebOS, etc.), but considering that 75% of Mercedes-Benz owners carry either an Apple or RIM device, there's not a ton of incentive to develop for other platforms... yet.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      all the more easier for thiefs to get into the cars.....once you have an app to connect with the cars computer to open the doors the possibilities are endless once you are able to control the cars computer....
      • 5 Years Ago
      hopefully they get on it and roll it out to the newer and not so new anymore blackberry models. considering the 8800/curve series is a little old.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think it's a good app. Not that I would use but it's useful for those people who are always forgetting things. It's useful when it's hard to find your car in a crowded parking lot.
      • 5 Years Ago
      having things on the iphone and blackberry just means it will be that much easier for a person to "hack" your car.

      Personally if I had a car that was $100,000 + dollars, I wouldn't want the "keys" to my car to be on a universal platform, thats millions of people across the world have access to. No matter what the security measures, people can hack it.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Um, cool.. but at the same time useless. How can you get more convenience than the keyless-go feature? Hold on, let me get out my phone, scroll to the app, enter my pin... woops.. what's my pin again? Oh right.. got it.. now 'UNLOCK'. Wow, you could have just got in the damn car 3 minutes ago.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Lol.. I know this, that's why the iPhone app doesn't make any sense.
        • 5 Years Ago
        exactly... I had this in my 2005 STS 6 Model Years ago... and now have it in both my Vette and CTS-V. U don't have to take the key outta your pocket for anything... unless the battery went dead somehow and U need to use the hidden key inside the fob... or U want to remote start the car. The Fob will open the doors, trunk, and start the car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        mercedes benz has that already quit a few years.
        you only need to get close to the car and aladin will unlock the door for you.
        no need to push any button or grap a key or something from your pants/bag.

        the s class had this, probally the new e class, will have it too.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Glad to see Blackberry support. Then again, people with jobs probably have Mercedes. And people with jobs use Blackberrys.

      Although I guess some contractors or something might use iPhones...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I accidentally locked my keys in my MB about two months ago (in the trunk while loading packages). If I would have had this feature on my iPhone, I would have saved myself about 1.5 hours of waiting for someone to show up and open it for me. I also would have saved the $125 I had to spend for him to come.

      Also, If you can find your car in a parking lot, you probably could also find it if it's stolen. That seems to have some significant utility. Not that I'd head to the hood to collect my MB, but the police could certainly help with that.
        • 5 Years Ago
        isn't it ironic that basically everyone on this thread thinks that this is a bad idea EXCEPT the iphone user? Sometimes I think that iphone users just want apps no matter how stupid and usless they are just to make themselves feel better about their purchase. Its like they are addicted to their phone and are servants of Steve Jobs and Apple. How else can you explain why the Apple store is always full of customers that buy the same products over and over and over again every time they add a letter to the device. And they are so brain washed that they don't even realize that they are being robbed. "$ey the new iphone can cut and paste, that's worth an extra $200. Can the iphone even get pics from a text message yet?
      • 5 Years Ago
      If you ask me, there is nothing on earth more gratifying than locking a car door with a key. And doesn't KeylessGo do this already, but better?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Mercedes Roadside Assistance is useless (They actually had to reimburse me for having to call AAA because they never showed up at 3AM on a cold snowy morning).

      I have a key that locks and unlocks the doors just fine and if you can't remember where you parked your car you are an idiot.

      They should spend some time on making a navigation system that works, that would be useful.
        • 5 Years Ago

        That was exactly the problem I had.
        After my fifth time calling them while standing in the freezing cold, they explained to me that they don't call individual tow guys like AAA does, they contact the closest dealership, which at 3am is pretty hard to get ahold of anyone.

        So I had to have a tow company come out and fix the problem and pay them out of my pocket and then demanded they reimburse me which they finally did after 2 months.

        I honestly probably would not buy another Mercedes again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Unfortunately MB Roadside is only as good as your local dealer. If your dealer sucks the roadside service will as well. For my friends and parents MB roadside has been beyond reproach for responsiveness and completeness when they have had dead batteries and such (I haven't had to use it), but our dealers around here are pretty stellar with a good staff of knowledgeable roadside staff.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Lots of opportunities for hackers to unlock your car with this system.

      Would be cool if this was able to read code as well.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, it's way easier to clone the RFID in your "keyless" start and use that to break in to your car.
        To hack this service they have to hack a web-service supposedly secured and monitored by the provider.
        To clone the RFID all they have to do is to get within a few feet of your pocket.
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