Mercedes-Benz has revealed a giant smart dashboard ‘Hyperscreen’ that thinks for the driver and stretches the full width of its forthcoming new electric limousine.
Dubbed ‘a big in-car cinema on wheels’, it is to make its debut in the German car-giant’s new flagship electric EQS limousine – effectively a zero-emissions version of its S-Class – later this year.
The new Hyperscreen uses artificial intelligence – or AI – to monitor the driver’s habits and preferences and acts as an in-car personal assistant – giving reminders, such as when to make a phone call and when a family member’s birthday is upcoming – and is being hailed as the ‘brains and nervous system’ of the new electric limousine.
While the technology is a showcase of how far in-car infotainment has come, it raises a huge question about the safety impact and the increased level of distraction caused to drivers, with ministers recently suggesting that vehicle touchscreens have contributed to previously falling road casualties plateauing in recent years.
‘Big in-car cinema on wheels’: Mercedes-Benz has today revealed a new dashboard-wide ‘Hyperscreen’ that will feature in its forthcoming electric limousine
Mercedes-Benz’s chief technical officer and senior board member Sajjad Khan introduced the Hyperscreen on Thursday
The screen made its debut at the digital Consumer Electronics Show, which normally takes place each January in Las Vegas but – due to Covid implications – is this year taking place online.
Mercedes-Benz said: ‘It is an assistant for the driver and front passenger who is constantly learning, thanks to artificial intelligence.’
The large, high-quality curved screen stretches almost the entire width of the cabin to create what the German car giant describes as a ‘wow effect’.
At its digital world premiere on Thursday, Mercedes-Benz and Daimler chairman Ola Källenius referred to it as ‘the most intelligent screen ever in a car’ and the largest to be fitted to a series production Mercedes-Benz.
He said people were used to having new smart screens for TV and computers in their homes. Now that is being offered in its new generation of electric cars.
As one continuous free-flowing form from pillar-to-pillar across the entire width of the dashboard, it comprises three separate screens behind one continuous sheet of glass.
The screen is a single unit that stretches across the full width of the cabin and has three separate screens: one for the driver, a main infotainment display and a screen for the front-seat passenger
The large, high-quality curved screen stretches almost the entire width of the cabin to create what the German car giant describes as a ‘wow effect’
While Mercedes says the system won’t avert a motorist’s eyes from the road, it is released at a time when UK ministers have warned that over-complicated car infotainment systems have likely contributed to a ‘plateauing’ of road deaths
In a bid to avoid distraction, special software prevents the driver seeing any movies or moving images on the screen of the passenger, who can listen via Bluetooth headphones.
But while Mercedes says the system won’t avert a motorist’s eyes from the road, it has been released at a time when ministers have warned that over-complicated car infotainment systems could be causing accidents – echoing drivers concerns over having to use a screen for what a button or dial once did.
Officials are alarmed that the rate of casualties has remained unchanged since 2010, despite significant improvements in the crash safety of vehicles; the latest figures show that five people die on the roads and 68 are seriously injured every day.
The Department for Transport said in a ‘call for evidence’ document last year that the failure to reduce casualties on UK roads could be a result of infotainment systems and mobile phones driving motorists to distraction.
‘Advances in car infotainment systems and mobile phone technology mean that there are increasing sources of potential distraction for drivers,’ the DfT wrote in the consultation introduction.
Motoring groups have also raised concerns that in-car touchscreens could be just as dangerous as using a mobile at the wheel.
In 2018 the chief executive of Highways England, Jim O’Sullivan, criticised ‘touchscreens with small, fiddly buttons’ and said the agency ‘doesn’t like them from a safety perspective’.
Speaking to This is Money, Källenius said the Hyperscreen uses eye-tracking technology that will help avoid driver distraction.
Sensors tracking the driver’s eyes will tell if he or she is looking over towards a movie being played on the passenger’s screen. If this happens, it will block off the screen until the driver looks away again.
Both driver and passenger will be able to view movies on a central screen, though only when safely parked up.
‘Safety is one of the core values of Mercedes-Benz DNA,’ he insisted. ‘We take driver distraction very seriously.’
The Mercedes-Benz EQS limousine has yet to be revealed, but appeared in the German car maker’s video in a shadowed disguise
This is the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS concept revealed in 2019 that suggests how the new top-of-the-range electric car could look
Mercedes-Benz says the system is ‘intuitive and easy to operate’, despite many of the function controls being housed in the massive touchscreen display
Mercedes’ Hyperscreen is ‘easy and intuitive to use’, says the manufacturer
In the launch video Mercedes-Benz boss Mr Källenius stood alongside a disguised EQS limousine in which the new Hyperscreen will feature first.
He said the battery-powered EQS, with a range of up to 434 miles, will be one of four fully-electric cars the firm will launch this year, starting with the small EQA later this month.
However, he refused to reveal what the Hyperscreen technology could cost.
Källenius declined to give even a ball-park price for the new dashboard-wide display, telling This is Money: ‘If you have to ask, you are not an EQS customer.’
Pressed further whether it would be in the £5,000 to £10,000 range he said: ’We’re not saying yet. We’ve not even announced the price of the car.’
But he conceded: ’It won’t be cheap. You can’t get it for a low price.’
The AI system built into the Hyperscreen has software capable of learning. This means the display and operating modes adapt to its user and makes personalised suggestions for numerous infotainment, comfort and vehicle functions.
It has also been designed so that the user does not have to scroll through numerous layers of sub-menus or give voice commands to make the system do what he or she wants. Instead, the most important applications are always offered in view at the top level. It calls this its ‘zero layer’ system.
The firm says the system is ‘intuitive and easy to operate’ and will prioritise the most popular fuctions.
The manufacturer claims research indicates that these are: navigation; radio; media and telephone.
However, more than 20 further selections – from an active massage programme and birthday reminder, to the suggestion for a ‘to-do list’ – are automatically offered with the aid of artificial intelligence when they are relevant to the customer.
These prompts from the car – based on its reading of the driver and passengers’ habits, have been dubbed ‘Magic Modules’ by its developers.
The user can accept or reject the respective suggestions with just one click. For example, Mercedes-Benz says: ‘If you always call a certain friend on the way home on Tuesday evenings, you will be asked to make a corresponding call on that day of the week and at this time of day.
‘A digital ‘business card’ with its contact information appears including – if stored – an image of the person you may wish to call. All suggestions are linked to the user’s profile. If someone else drives the EQS on a Tuesday night, the recommendations will be tailored to other user.’
The Hyperscreen also registers when the driver triggers a button to raise the suspension to provide more ground clearance when approaching steep garage entrances or road-humps. It then uses the GPS positioning of the vehicle to automatically use lift the chassis when the driver approaches the same obstruction in the future.
Mercedes-Benz’s chief technical officer and senior board member Sajjad Khan said: ’The MBUX [Mercedes-Benz User Experience) Hyperscreen is both the brain and nervous system of the car.
‘It continually gets to know the customer better and delivers a tailored, personalised infotainment and operating offering before the occupant even has to click or scroll anywhere.’
He added: ’Several displays appear to blend seamlessly, resulting in an impressive, curved screen band. Analogue air vents are integrated into this large digital surface to connect the digital and physical world.
‘We analysed the customer feedback of the first MBUX generation and asked ourselves: ‘What do people need and how do they interact in the car? Especially in an electric car?
‘The goal was a concept without distraction of the driver or complicated operation. And it had to be able to learn thanks to artificial intelligence.
‘The Hyperscreen gets to know the customer better and better, providing a customised, personalised infotainment and operating offer before the passenger has to click anything. ‘ We didn’t want to build the biggest screen ever in a car. Instead, we have developed special screens with a perfect ratio of size and functionality for maximum user-friendliness.’
The production-ready battery-powered EQS will be revealed later this year and will be one of four all-electric Mercedes models to launch in 2021
Very few performance figures for the production version of the EQS have yet to be confirmed, though bosses said it will have a range of up to 434 miles
Gorden Wagener, chief design officer for Daimler Group said: ‘We merge technology with design in a fascinating way that offers the customer unprecedented ease of use. We love simplicity, we have reached a new level.’
The system uses high colour graphics. The classic cockpit display with two circular instruments has been reinterpreted with a digital laser sword in a glass lens.
The new Hyperscreen dashboard comprises a 141-centimetre wide and curved screen band and covers an area of 2,432 square centimetres. The curved glass is made from a scratch-resistant aluminium silicate. Two special coatings reduce reflections and make cleaning easier.
The Hyperscreen is surrounded by a continuous plastic front frame which makes the display unit appear to float on the instrument panel. The passenger also has his or her own display and operating area, which makes travel more pleasant and entertaining.
The system can handle up to seven profiles which can be individually customised. However, to avoid abuses and distraction, the entertainment functions of the passenger display are only available during the journey if the passenger is physically there. If the passenger seat is not occupied, the screen becomes a piece of digital decorative art, such as twinkling stars.
For techies, the car firm says the system has 8 CPU central processing cores, 24-gigabyte RAM and 46.4 GB per second RAM memory bandwidth.
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