Car Brands and Their Mobile Services Smart Assistants

Intelligent systems make life more comfortable. You control the roller shutters at home, save energy thanks to heating monitoring or network smoke detectors. Even modern cars can no longer be imagined without digital helpers. They offer security features, help with navigation or provide useful information from the Internet. ECall, the automatic emergency call after an accident, has long been a reality. But there is more – many more smart assistants are in development.

Cars – the rolling on-board computers
Mercedes-Benz: great moments when looking for a parking space
Tesla: Rolling Playstation with parking function and huge display
Volkswagen: Subscribe to temporary computer intelligence
BMW: SUV electric flagship as a research base
Audi: Alexa connection and vehicle functions on demand
Entertainment now, autonomous driving later

In the competition for the favor of customers: inside, it’s no longer all about exhaust or engine sizes. In everyday life, which is becoming ever tighter, intelligent assistance systems should instead help to save time and avoid stress or to ensure more safety for drivers inside the road. Connected vehicles now have a wide range of functions and mobile services on board.

In theory, autonomous driving at SAE level 4 has also been permitted in Germany since 2021. This means a high level of automation, the vehicles can carry out all driving tasks independently. However, there are still no production cars that achieve this level of automation and are approved for road traffic.

Mercedes-Benz: great moments when looking for a parking space
With the slogan “Your good star on all roads” the manufacturer from Stuttgart advertised its vehicles for decades. Today’s networked Mercedes-Benz automatically recognizes road signs and roadworks, maintains a safe distance from vehicles in front using the Distronic active distance assistant, or uses active steering assistant to follow the lanes on the motorway. Models of the new C- and S-Class and the EQS also report potholes or road bumps to a cloud and thus warn other vehicles from the same manufacturer.

You can use Mercedes Me and the Mercedes Me app to network your car with other devices:

Your mobile phone via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
Your smart home
Your Garmin running watch
By the way: With older models, you can retrofit Mercedes Me with a currently still free adapter for the diagnostic port. This also makes your car fit for Mercedes Me, finds available parking spaces in your area, reminds you of upcoming service appointments via mobile phone or the upcoming expiry of the parking meter. As a driver: in an e-car, Mercedes Me will guide you to the next Ionity fast charging station. Mercedes Me is free for three years for new cars, after which it is available from around 40 euros per year.

Automation in driving is also advancing: the new S-Class is already looking for a parking space in selected multi-storey car parks on its own. Using cameras and distance measurement using optional LiDAR sensors, the car constantly gets a 360-degree picture of its surroundings, even when on the move. This should soon make autonomous driving at SAE level 3 possible – in selected traffic situations and up to a speed of 60 km / h.

Nice to know: If you drive a company car, Mercedes Me will automatically write logbooks for the tax office on your smartphone for a surcharge.

Tesla: Rolling Playstation with parking function and huge display
The Tesla autopilot is not without controversy. Completely autonomous driving in regular road traffic is not yet possible, but functions such as independent parking (Summon) or all-round sensor monitoring with braking and steering assistance work well. In addition, the American electric car manufacturer offers many other features that make driving easier and more beautiful.

You can access your vehicle via the Tesla app on your mobile phone. With it you can lock and unlock it with your mobile phone key, control the air conditioning, switch on the auxiliary heater, monitor the charging process at a charging station, pay for charging or book breakdown assistance in an emergency. Additional vehicle functions can be purchased via so-called over-the-air upgrades and subscriptions.

Practical: Tesla models built between 2012 and 2018 have free internet access via the cellular network. For newer vehicles in Germany there is now a monthly fee of around 10 euros.

The self-confessed computer player Elon Musk has installed entertainment systems with the performance of a Playstation 5 in the Model S. With this, he wants to entertain Tesla drivers while driving, when one day their cars actually navigate completely autonomously through rush hour traffic, for example.

SAE International, the association of automotive engineers, has defined the levels of autonomous driving as follows.
Level 0: no assistance systems in use, if necessary, warners give a signal.
Level 1: Individual systems such as the parking or distance assistant support the driver: inside alternately.
Level 2: Electronic aids actively intervene and brake and steer at the same time.
Level 3: Assistance systems drive the vehicle in simple surroundings. Drivers must be able to intervene within a defined period of time.
Level 4: Drivers: they can hand over control of the vehicle and do other things themselves.
Level 5: The vehicle drives completely autonomously.

Volkswagen: Subscribe to temporary computer intelligence
The name We Connect is reminiscent of a Nintendo console, but is actually the new connectivity offer from Volkswagen. Basic functions such as eCall or the retrieval of vehicle status data via mobile phone are therefore available for most vehicles from model year 2021. Additional functions such as Alexa support, web radio, WiFi hotspot and online traffic information can be booked via various packages. For some services, the VW entertainment on-board system Discover Pro is required, which costs around 2,500 euros. In addition, there are around 80 to 150 euros per year for the service packages.

In older vehicles, the manufacturer has installed its Car-Net, which offers entertainment services or a smartphone connection. The Wolfsburg-based company wants to market additional services and autonomous driving functions later as a purchase model on demand. Then you can, for example, book the autonomous self-driving option for your car every year or per trip – or alternatively, cheaper assistant programs that only support you with steering and braking and only work as long as someone is at the steering wheel. VW has not yet announced the exact prices and dates.

BMW: SUV electric flagship as a research base
The Munich-based manufacturer BMW has bundled its networked BMW Connected Drive services into various packages that cost between around 60 and 300 euros once for appropriately prepared models. In the full Connected Package Excellence package, BMW Connected Drive offers smart features such as the concierge service (e.g. finding star restaurants or emergency pharmacies in the area), searching for possible free parking spaces and regular map updates for the navigation system.

BMW calls its autonomous driving services, which are currently being developed, Personal Copilot. The flagship and development pioneer of the company fleet will be the BMW Vision iNext, the electric SUV launched in 2021. For example, it has 5G mobile communications on board, which, with its short signal propagation times, is a prerequisite for vehicles to be able to communicate in real time with their navigation center or other vehicles in their vicinity.

In addition, BMW has now presented the eighth version of its iDrive operating system. Motto: more voice control, a new color scheme and overall larger screens, for example in the BMW iX or the BMW i4. Curved displays provide a better overview. And the on-board assistant should answer more contextually.

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