Mercedes-Benz mbrace Drive2Friend featureEnlarge Photo
When we first heard about Mercedes-Benz's new Send2Benz service, we were slightly underwhelmed: sending a destination to your car's navigation system? That seems so 2009. A number of automakers -- including GM -- already offer similar services that facilitate communications between smartphones, computers, and in-car telematics devices.
But on closer inspection, Send2Benz offers at least a few noteworthy features. For example, users can send an address from their iPhone contact list directly to mbrace, which is a nifty trick (although it's also built into the Google Maps app that comes with every single iPhone). And while we tend to hate toolbars, the one for Send2Benz seems interesting: simply highlight an address, click the toolbar, and the destination routes to your Mercedes like that.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is called Drive2Friend: simply text a friend to ask for her location, and when she responds, her location zips directly to the car's navigation system. That could save drivers a lot of time when they're coordinating a get-together in an unfamiliar city or picking up a friend in a crowded area.
The bigger picture
Services like this represent a mash-up of geolocation and telematics. That sort of pairing is sure to play a powerful role in the future, but for now, the technology is still in its infancy. As a result, it does a lot of cool things that aren't necessarily useful. After all, most drivers don't need this sort of service on a daily basis, since they're driving through familiar territory. But it sure looks good on paper, and one day, the underlying technology will be put to more innovative use.
If you're curious about the Send2Benz service, check out this demo video. If you're really curious, skim the press release pasted below the clip.
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Send Destinations On-the-Go with Mercedes-Benz mbrace™
New service adds innovative ways to interact with the vehicle and expands mbrace communication to "friends" and "family"
March 01, 2011 - Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) announced today a new mbrace™ service allowing customers to safely and conveniently send destinations to their Mercedes-Benz in-vehicle navigation system. Developed by its partner, Hughes Telematics, Inc. ("HTI"), (OTCBB: HUTC and HUTCW), the new feature also includes an innovative networking function called Drive2Friend™, which enables customers to connect and navigate to contacts and/or "friends."
The new mbrace service extends remote access beyond traditional map websites, offering nine different ways to send destinations to Mercedes-Benz vehicles. mbrace customers can experience enhanced flexibility, using the new service to send destinations with a new mbrace Mobile Application feature, website and browser toolbar widget.
"The convenience of mbrace is once again extended beyond the vehicle, giving Mercedes-Benz customers the freedom to enjoy personalized service even when they’re not in the driver’s seat," said Sascha Simon, head of advanced product planning, MBUSA. "This unique upgrade integrates the Web and smartphone with the vehicle’s navigation system to provide an easy way for our customers to connect with their contacts."
Specifically, as an update to the mbrace Mobile Application, the new mbrace service provides options for customers to search and send points of interest, directly enter an address, send contacts from their contact book as well as send current location all from the palm of their hands. The new app also allows customers to use the Drive2Friend feature to send requests to their "friends."
"As mobile apps and networking become more prevalent in the marketplace, it is our goal to work with Mercedes-Benz to remain at the forefront with connected innovation integrated within the vehicle and beyond," said Erik Goldman, president, HTI. "The new mbrace service and Drive2Friend feature provide new and exciting ways for customers to stay connected – not only to their vehicles but also with friends and family."