Hey, Mercedes! Voice-Activated Assistant Drives New MBUX System

CARS.COM — Artificial intelligence, once just the purview of sci-fi films, is soon coming to a Mercedes-Benz near you — but its name isn't HAL, it's MBUX, or Mercedes-Benz User Experience. The automaker debuted its new multimedia platform on Tuesday at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, touting features like the system's ability to learn thanks to AI technology.

Related: Mercedes Will Bring A-Class 'Baby Benz' Sedan to U.S.

Drivers will be able to control things like navigation, music, climate functions and seat positions using what the automaker calls "intelligent voice control with natural speech recognition." Similar to systems like Amazon Alexa, the voice-activated assistant can be summoned with the phrase "Hey, Mercedes."

"On the one hand, it attunes to the user and her voice and also understands non-native speakers better; on the other hand, the software models on the server learn new buzzwords or changing use of language with time," Mercedes-Benz said in a statement. "The system also no longer answers stereotypically, but varies in the dialogue output, too."

Using what Mercedes calls "prediction features," MBUX can anticipate the driver's needs. For example, if the driver listens to the same radio station at a certain time each day, the driver receives the station as a suggestion on the screen. It works similarly with navigation routes.

"Artificial intelligence, thus, gradually turns the car into a personal assistant for the driver," Mercedes-Benz said in a statement.

Aside from using AI, the new operating system also marks a big leap away from the automaker's usual knob-based control systems. MBUX uses what Mercedes calls "3-D maximum-resolution graphics" on touch-sensitive displays for both the gauge cluster and the multimedia screen, and both can be individualized and adapted to suit the user. There's also a traditional touchpad on the center console and touch-control buttons on the steering wheel.

Mercedes says the touchpad can be used to change the information on the multimedia screen as intuitively as on a smartphone, with the ability to enlarge or move contents via gestures like pinch and zoom; the touchpad also recognizes handwriting. The driver can also access MBUX functions via a smartwatch and send addresses directly from the watch to the vehicle, or use the watch to find a parked vehicle.

MBUX will make its debut as standard equipment on the new A-Class compact sedan, which should go into production for the U.S. market this spring.

Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.