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Mbrace2 puts Facebook in your Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz joined the ranks of automotive companies integrating useful apps into the dashboard at CES 2012, showing off its new Mbrace2 technology.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL
While Mercedes-Benz unveiled the new SL-Class in Detroit, at CES it showed the new app technology that will be featured in the new car. Timothy Hornyak/CNET

LAS VEGAS--As its luxury competitors showed off new connected-car features and integrated apps, Mercedes-Benz lagged, until now.

At CES 2012 Mercedes-Benz revealed a full-featured new telematics system, Mbrace2, which gives drivers access to a number of useful and popular apps in the dashboard. This new system will first see production in the updated 2013 SL-Class, then roll out to other 2013 models.

Mercedes-Benz enhanced its traditional onscreen interface with a carousel menu structure, and one of those carousel items leads to the apps. These include Facebook, Yelp, a news reader, Morningstar Finance, Google search, Google Street View, and Panoramio. Most of the apps are integrated with the navigation system, so the driver can instantly set a restaurant from Yelp as a destination, for example. As a safety feature, many of the app functions are blocked while the car is moving.

Through its partner Hughes Telematics, Mercedes-Benz can update the apps available in the car without requiring the owner to visit a dealer. Mbrace2 relies on a new hardware module that includes a 3G data connection.

Along with the apps, the Mbrace2 hardware includes the features of the first generation of Mbrace, such as emergency crash response and remote door unlocking. And it adds a new set of features helping owners keep track of their cars.

Mbrace2 offers geofencing, so the owner can set an area in which the car can be driven. If it crosses a set geographical boundary, the owner will receive a text, and a disobedient son or daughter might have to come up with an explanation. Likewise, Mbrace2 enables a breadcrumb service, which lets the owner see where the car was driven.

Beyond keeping track of errant teen drivers, Mbrace2 should make it easy to find a stolen car.