MERCEDES-BENZ Vans Australia/Pacific says its new MBUX infotainment and Mercedes Pro telematics systems will increase the appeal of its Sprinter large van, which has just launched in third-generation guise, to the all-important fleet sector.
MBUX and Mercedes Pro represent a near $1US billion ($A1.41 billion) investment from Mercedes-Benz in infotainment and telematics respectively, with the latter aimed to decrease fleet customers’ reliance on third-party solutions.
Mercedes Pro is expected to become available Down Under in the next 18 to 24 months, and it is likely to arrive alongside in-vehicle internet connectivity that will allow fleet managers to gather data from their vehicles on the move.
Speaking to GoAuto this week at the Sprinter media launch in Adelaide, Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia/Pacific chief executive officer and managing director Diane Tarr stressed the importance of MBUX and Mercedes Pro moving forward.
“Knowing that telematics and connectivity is critical going into the future, we have to be in that space,” she said. “MBUX is a starting point, and that just expands into Mercedes Pro.”
Ms Tarr revealed that Mercedes-Benz Vans would work with fleets to cater for their specific telematics needs – such as dispatcher systems for courier businesses – that Mercedes Pro does not already cater for.
“We have built (Mercedes Pro) with particular segments of customers in mind, (such as) ambulance services,” she said. “Going forward is to be able to, where possible and as much as possible, integrate their systems into our system.
“Motorhomes is the other one. As part of that whole lifestyle experience, (it is important) to make sure we have an interface that provides that.”
However, Ms Tarr was unsure whether Mercedes Pro customers would be subject to a flat-rate fee or a subscription service when the telematics system launches, indicating that its rollout in 21 European countries next year will be telling.
“Ultimately, what rolls out (here) is the best option for our customers,” she said. “We’re providing information on what that could look like, and (Mercedes-Benz Vans) is gathering all that.”
Mercedes Pro services can be accessed via the Vehicle Management Tool (VMT) desktop program for fleet managers and the Mercedes Pro Connect smartphone application for drivers that support functions including management and tracking of vehicles and drivers.
Critically, Mercedes Pro will notify fleet managers of the servicing requirements and costs of individual vehicles, helping to minimise downtime and eliminate unexpected disruptions.
Sprinter buyers who take delivery before Mercedes Pro’s launch will need to have a first-party communications module – which will be part of a forthcoming model-year update – retrofitted to access its services.
This communications module will also enable over-the-air software updates for MBUX and Mercedes Pro, with the former currently only upgradeable via dealership service departments.
As reported, MBUX launched in the A-Class, with the Sprinter becoming the second Mercedes-Benz model to receive it, ahead of the S-Class limousine – the model in which, traditionally, many new technologies debut.
In the Sprinter, MBUX powers either a 7.0- or 10.25-inch touchscreen and can be controlled via always-on voice control and touchpads on the steering wheel, with these input methods intended to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and hands on the wheel – two important considerations for fleets.
MBUX also supports up to 10 driver profiles, including preferred seat and mirror positioning, which is useful for fleets, which often have multiple drivers swapping in and out of an individual vehicle.
Machine learning is also supported by MBUX, with frequent routes and favourite radio stations, among other preferences, accrued over time and presented as shortcut options on the touchscreen.
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