Mercedes-Benz calls it "mbrace." It's the company's own telematics system. Telematics are also known as information and communications technology; it's where things like navigation and in-car phone functions all intermingle and sit in that top space of the center console.

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Mercedes-Benz has announced the second generation, called mbrace2. It offers what the company describes as "top-of-the-line features related to safety, infotainment, personal assistance and vehicle care." It has been developed to work not just inside a Benz but also outside, via the user's smartphone - either an Apple iPhone or an Android-based unit.

That's what differentiates this generation from the last: internet and remote access capability. And "the cloud" is involved. The cloud basically turns people's computers, tablets, smartphones and the like into terminals connected via the internet to sets of remotes servers. The upside of this is that any software updates can be implemented with little fuss, so users always have the most current features. This is especially good for drivers.

"Traditionally, in-vehicle technology is finalized more than a year before a vehicle comes to market and is difficult to upgrade," said Steve Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. "The mbrace2 system solves [this] lifecycle conundrum... creating a networked vehicle that is always online, always upgradeable."

The new web-related highlights of mbrace2 include Facebook and Google, open browsing, stock prices and news. Under the umbrella of remote access comes things like vehicle diagnostics, valet protect, speed alerts and geo-fences. This last item sets a virtual boundary, so if someone borrows the car and goes beyond a certain point, mbrace2 will send a text to the owner's phone. A virtual tattle-tale, yes, but still good to have.

The mbrace2 system also offers concierge services that can make a restaurant reservation, purchase cinema tickets and much more. The first car to receive this will be the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL that launches in the spring and then it will become available on most 2013 model year cars as they go on sale.

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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