Mercedes-Benz is investing heavily in its MBUX infotainment system because of the potential for making money from offering online services, which in future could rival the profits made from selling cars.
Mercedes introduced the latest version of MBUX on the A-Class in 2018, and the system is now available across virtually its entire model line-up.
A key focus of the system is voice control. Mercedes is currently rolling out an over-the-air software update in certain markets allowing more informal language to be used. In China, the firm has also launched a feature that allows users to order and pay for takeaway food via voice control while driving. A service for booking cinema tickets is also being offered.
A recent report predicted the market for automotive AI systems (including hardware, software and in-car services) will rise from £1.6 billion today to £21bn by 2025.
The desire to capitalise on this has led Mercedes to invest millions in a bespoke system, rather than look to partner with a smartphone provider such as Apple or Google, as some rival car makers are doing.
When asked by Autocar if he believes Mercedes can make as much money from AI systems as from selling cars, MBUX head of user interaction Nils Schanz said: “This is what we are aiming for, and this is why we are investing so heavily in MBUX. We can see there is huge business potential.”
Schanz, who clarified that his job is focused on the user experience and not developing revenue models, said Mercedes has no plans at present to charge owners for using in-car services such as food ordering.
Potential profit streams beyond selling MBUX hardware include charging businesses for access to the food-ordering service and selling access to the platform to third-party app creators. Services including Yelp, Tripadvisor and Apple Music are already available.