The Latest New Products Must-See
Auto Tech

Mercedes MBUX infotainment revives touch, adds AI

It'll hit markets first in the new A-Class, which is less than a year away.

Mercedes-Benz's current infotainment system, Comand, has been criticized of late for its unnecessary complexity and lack of modern connectivity. The automaker clearly heard and addressed all that criticism in its new infotainment system.

Mercedes-Benz used CES 2018 to unveil its new infotainment system, called the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, or MBUX for short. It might sound like a hotel loyalty program, but MBUX promises to send Mercedes-Benz's latest vehicles rocketing toward a connected future.

In order to use Comand, you had to use a combination touchpad and rotary controller that didn't always feel intuitive. Instead of relying on a single input type, MBUX brings the touchscreen back into action, working alongside the aforementioned touchpad as well as touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel.

Anything is an improvement over Comand.


A new look

MBUX comprises two widescreen displays, one to replace the traditional gauge cluster and one for the infotainment. The gauge cluster screen has a traditional two-gauge layout, but those gauges can be switched around -- you can show current media, an analog clock, a navigation map or fuel consumption figures instead of speed or revs.

Over on the right, a home screen displays large images for quick-tap access to media, navigation and phone menus. Each of those images can display pertinent information just below, including ETAs and whatever media is playing.

There's also a fullscreen mode that can display navigation information across the entire area of the gauge cluster.

If you want to change vehicle settings, the settings menu features fancy animations of the vehicle, and all you need to do is tap various parts of the car to access relevant settings.

Basically, adding these skeuomorphic details removes the need to scroll through long menus in order to reach things you need. That was one of the biggest frustrations with Comand -- there were so many menus.

The widescreen displays are available in three different configurations -- two 7-inch displays, two 10.25-inch displays and a midtier offering with one screen of each size.

AI for the car and new connectivity

A flashy new UI isn't the only major addition to MBUX. There's also a new digital assistant. By saying, "Hey, Mercedes," which is also the name of a band from the early 2000s, drivers can use a range of features, such as getting weather information or changing the climate control settings.

This new digital assistant packs natural language recognition, so you can say something like, "I'm cold" instead of making a request for a specific temperature increase. You can ask the assistant if you need sunglasses tomorrow morning. Natural language processing is kind of freaky.

MBUX also brings new connected features. Vehicle-to-X communication capabilities allow the system to receive messages about bad roads or emergency vehicles driving past. More traditional services are included, too, like vehicle location, local gas prices and over-the-air updates.

"Hey, Mercedes, play Hey Mercedes."


So when can I get it?

Whereas some automakers only roll out new technologies like this on their most expensive offerings to start, Mercedes-Benz is starting small. MBUX will debut on the new Mercedes A-Class. In markets outside the US, that'll happen in the spring. In the US, where we'll get a sedan variant instead of the hatchback, the debut won't happen until late 2018.

Hyundai FCEV: We tackle 240 desert miles from LA to Vegas in Hyundai's new fuel cell prototype.

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.