Mercedes-Benz mbrace2 system part of sat-nav draws ire of Britain even before launch

Mercedes-Benz is facing a backlash in regards to their new in-car system, a part of the sat-nav system in upcoming SL class models. The gadget will enable drivers to update their Facebook status while at the wheel. From Mercedes Benz’s perspective, drivers would be able to update their location while driving to a venue.

Road Safety GB chairman, Alan Kennedy had this to say. ‘It is inconceivable that a major manufacturer such as Mercedes would even contemplate allowing such a system to be fitted to their vehicles.’ ‘The biggest and most obvious worry is, of course, distraction. No matter how driver friendly the system is, I fear we will see an increase in the number of Mercedes cars wrapped around trees, pedestrians and cyclists.’ ‘This is something the road safety profession must resist.’

Mercedes is set to introduce the Facebook feature in its top-end models this year, and to the most of their cars on a later date. The app doesn’t allow drivers to write out status updates while at the wheel. Instead, one has to press a button so friends know their location. A spokesperson clarified, ‘It is no more distracting than tuning your radio. You just press a button and it’ll update your friends.’ Road Safety GB – professional body of British road safety officers – and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety says the system would ‘encourage drivers to avert their eyes from the road ahead and called for its introduction to be halted’.

Known as Mercedes-Benz Apps, the in-car internet service was unveiled last month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Steve Cannon, Mercedes chief executive introduced the mbrace2 system. The system enables you to notify people how long it will be until you arrive based on an automated connection to the sat-nav. Featuring a dashboard screen with a 3G mobile phone connection that will display a range of websites, it includes Facebook and Google Street View, and a local business directory and messaging service Yelp.

The system is capable of open browsing. Connection to pre-programmed sites showing stock prices and news headlines will be a feature. Most functions would be accessible when the vehicle is parked but updating Facebook status on the move at the click of a button is possible.

Mercedes said the system will first be made available in their luxury SL-Class cars and later on most other cars as standard or as an extra priced at about £2,000. Rob Halloway, Mercedes UK spokesman said the system is fully tested and compliant with Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers safety guidelines. He elaborated, ‘The Facebook app will only be able to send information about the vehicle, such as its current location or navigation system destination.’ ‘It is basic functionality. You can only use the internet when you are parked.’ ‘Mercedes-Benz is absolutely committed to safety. It is our number one priority.’

The mbrace2 system let’s those driving control the ‘infotainment’ radio, television and hi-fi system by voice commands, and ease of taking phone calls. Robert Gifford, PACTS executive director says this may cause driver overload, and is a potential distraction. He added, ‘Mercedes should prove that it will not distract drivers before they think about introducing it.’ ‘Mercedes could find itself in a court if one of their cars in involved in a crash and it turns out that the driver was using the Facebook function at the time. ‘