Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler Group, and Sajjad Khan, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG and CTO, about the new MBUX generation.
Mr Wagener, Mr Khan, the new MBUX generation can do more, knows more and says more: When was the last time you said "Hey Mercedes!"? And if you don't mind me asking, what did you ask the voice assistant?
Wagener: It was just 15 minutes ago on the way into the office. When I use MBUX, it's intuitive, I don't have to think about if and how. That is in fact how my parents' generation thinks: would I like to use the technology? Today, it is totally different, the fusion of technology and design makes it so easy: I would like to use this technology. If technology can do a lot of things but I have to work to use it then I keep my distance. Our success is based on the idea that it must work just as brilliantly as it looks. And I asked Hey Mercedes to stop the music as I wanted to enjoy the quietness of the electric drive - I was in my E-Class with plug-in hybrid drive.
Khan: It was similar for me, on the way into the office. I wasn't sure if I had turned the light off in the living room at home. And so I quickly checked whether the light was on or off thanks to the MBUX Smart Home function via Hey Mercedes. And this is exactly the point of innovative and intuitive technology – it supports me, makes my life easier and thus saves me time.
You presented the first MBUX generation in January 2018 at the CES in Las Vegas. How was it as an automotive manufacturer at a trade fair for entertainment electronics to present the vehicle cockpit of the future?
Khan: The days of the world premiere of MBUX in Las Vegas were really exciting for my team and I. Would we have the comprehensive programming ready in time? Would everything in the seat boxes work at the live demo? And would the journalists realise the potential of MBUX? Well we had the luck of those who work hard: everything worked wonderfully, and the media representatives and the public were enthusiastic. Just four months later, the new A-Class came to market as the first model with MBUX. There are now more than 1.8 million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars on the roads with it around the world, and the Van division also uses MBUX. A new Mercedes without MBUX is now inconceivable. We are now linking in to this great success story with the second MBUX generation …
Wagener: The trade show in Las Vegas was just the right place for the world premiere of MBUX: Although the abbreviation CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show, the CES has developed into an important technology trade show. This reflects the increasing digitisation and networking of all areas of life. Just like seismographs detecting earthquakes around the world, my design colleagues in our four international design studios sense exactly these trends and are inspired by new ideas from different continents and cultures; their field of work is the future. Visiting the CES has always been a source of great inspiration, especially where user experience or trends such as fit and healthy are concerned.
With the large head-up display with augmented reality content such as animated turn arrows and biometric authentication, MBUX has now taken another big step towards digitisation and artificial intelligence. And you could even say that with the MBUX Hyperscreen the huge television has found its way into the car. What are the highlights of the new MBUX generation for you?
Khan: Of course I have my favourites, and the huge MBUX Hyperscreen in the EQS is one of them. With its unique electric aesthetics and the high level of user friendliness, the hyperscreen is representative of the overall character of the EQS – avant-garde, cool, personal and useful – the German word "praktisch" doesn't do it justice like the English word "useful". But it's important for me to not just talk about the individual hardware components of MBUX. The clever networking of all systems and the intelligent software that is capable of learning are also decisive. Our MBUX philosophy is to offer our customers maximum comfort, personalisation and convenience. A system that goes into even more detail, is more well thought-out and more individual than ever before. The advantage for our customers: Thanks to further improved user-friendliness, they save time and receive a high added value. MBUX is thus the mainstay or even the mastermind of the vehicle.
Wagener: Our goal for MBUX was to create the most coveted infotainment system in a car. We transferred the bipolarity of our design philosophy of Sensual Purity to MBUX - that means on the one hand the sensual beauty and on the other hand the Wow effect of the unique intuitive operation. And with the EQS as the representative of Progressive Luxury we could be somewhat more modern, more courageous and more polarising. This also applied to the exterior, just as a side note. I see it the same as Sajjad, the MBUX Hyperscreen is also my absolute favourite in the interior – a digital work of art, a futuristic, luxurious sculpture and also a powerful technological challenge.
But digital beauty is only one aspect of MBUX, right? To what extent was the excellent user friendliness of MBUX increased even further?
Wagener: We stage technology through design in a way that is fun and at the same time really beautiful. And intuitive. Because alongside the cool hardware, the content is equally important, i.e. what we display on the screen unit. Visually inspiring with super fine details. And our so-called Zero Layer is another element that makes operation even easier. The most important and most frequently used interactions can be operated on one single level, the top level. You only rarely have to delve into sub-menus and this shortens interaction times. This is a continuation of the intuitive operation and belongs to the emotional intelligence of our brand Mercedes-EQ.
Khan: Yes, the MBUX Hyperscreen is both the mastermind and nervous system of the car, it is connected to all components of the vehicle and communicates with them. This makes a new form of interactivity and individuality possible. Because the customer is at the centre of development. We analysed the customer feedback from the first MBUX generation and asked ourselves: 'What do people need and how do they interact with the car? Especially in an electric car?' The goal was to come up with a concept that does not distract the driver or require complicated operation. And it has to be capable of learning thanks to artificial intelligence: The MBUX Hyperscreen continually gets to know the customer better and in this way delivers a tailored, personalised infotainment and operating offering before the occupant even has to click anywhere. It was not our aim to create the biggest screen of all time in a car. Rather, we developed special screens with the perfect ratio of size to functionality for the best possible level of user friendliness. That is customer orientation and digital thinking for 2021!
About the interviewees
Gorden Wagener (52), joined the company in 1997 and has been at the helm of Daimler AG's globally operating Design unit since mid-2008. Under his leadership a new design strategy for Mercedes-Benz was developed in 2009. This strategy remains subject to ongoing development. As of 1 November 2016, the Board of Management of Daimler AG appointed Wagener as Chief Design Officer. Wagener first studied Industrial Design at the University of Essen before going on to specialise in Transportation Design at the Royal College of Art in London.
Sajjad Khan, 47, is a Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG. He is responsible for development in the areas of Connectivity, Autonomous, Shared & Services and Electric. Following his master's degree in Information & Communication Technology with a focus on product development as well as initial international projects in industry, he joined the then DaimlerChrysler AG in 2001, where he worked on various projects in infotainment.