CES
  • Image Credit: Daimler AG
  • Image Credit: Daimler AG
  • Image Credit: Daimler AG
  • Image Credit: Daimler AG
  • Image Credit: Daimler AG
  • Image Credit: Daimler AG

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its new Mercedes-Benz User Experience multimedia system at CES, an artificial intelligence-enabled infotainment system that blends a newly designed touchscreen with augmented-reality navigation, voice activation and a new three-word address navigation system. Dubbed MBUX, it will enter production this spring with the A-Class compact car.

On Wednesday, parent company Daimler AG said it's expanding its involvement with navigation startup what3words by acquiring a roughly 10 percent stake in the company. The London-based startup has divided the entire world into 57 trillion — yes, trillion — squares of 3 meters by 3 meters and allocated a unique three-word address to each one. Its software allows users to enter, via text or voice command, a destination using three words, such as "down.salad.hunter" or "silk.mural.goodness," both of which were borrowed from the company's website.

It might sound strange to us Yanks, who enjoy a pretty comprehensive, functioning numerical address system. But the company says its solution makes it easier for non-technical people to discover and understand an address than via postal codes, which aren't always developed in rural areas or rapidly-developing parts of the world, or via GPS coordinates. It also helps you track down places without addresses, such as parks or places where you're waiting for a cab — er, we mean Lyft. Its system is now available in 14 languages.

The MBUX system features three-dimensional digital displays, a touchscreen that resembles an elongated iPhone turned horizontally, voice control and over-the-air updates. According to Business Insider, the system will give users the option of viewing menus in two or three dimensions, and it'll present the option of using a graphic representation of the car to change settings in addition to offering text menus.

The voice recognition system, activated by either a button on the steering wheel or by invoking the key phrase "Hey Mercedes," has been designed to pick up conversational speech patterns and even slang, so that drivers can talk to their vehicles like they might talk to their friends. So for example, Mercedes says the question "Will the sun be shining tomorrow in Miami?" will be interpreted by the system as "Do I need sunglasses tomorrow in Miami?" It's also packed with AI to learn from the user's habits and use them to make predictions, such as playing a music playlist or which places you're likely to visit.

Navigation features are also enriched with new augmented reality features. Video images of the surroundings from a front camera are augmented with helpful information like arrows or house numbers superimposed on the touchscreen to help drivers find addresses.

Mercedes says its new A-Class has more interior space than its predecessor and represents a more youthful brand image to reflect the younger average age of European drivers buying the vehicle. The company is reportedly bringing an A-Class sedan stateside this year with a base price under $30,000. We've reached out to Daimler for confirmation and to see whether U.S. models would feature MBUX, and will update this if we hear back.

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