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Mercedes wants to turn your car into a comfortable shopping mall on wheels

Georges Massing, Director User Interaction and Software at Mercedes-Benz. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Imagine the time you’d save if you could make dinner reservations for two, buy a new button-up shirt, and order flowers without leaving your car. Mercedes-Benz wants to make that possible by launching an in-car e-commerce platform that promises to take the convenience of online shopping to new heights.

In some markets, the German automaker already lets buyers order a wide array of digital options after taking delivery of a brand-new car. The list of available features includes smartphone integration, remote parking assist, and a digital key that gives owners the possibility of unlocking their car by tapping their smartphone on the driver-side door handle.

“You will be able to buy exactly the same thing you can buy today online through the car …”

That’s just the beginning. Soon, Mercedes owners in many countries around the world will be able to order food, buy movie tickets, or pay to charge their electric car by simply tapping their car’s touchscreen. And, they’ll be able to buy goods and services from third-party companies, just like they do on their smartphone, laptop, or tablet.

Digital Trends sat down with Georges Massing, the vice president of digital vehicle and mobility for Mercedes-Benz, to learn more about the technology, and where the German firm wants to take it.

How will motorists benefit from on-demand upgrades?

Today, you can buy car-related services with your Mercedes Me account, but you have to log on to the website, order what you want there, and send it back to the car. What we want to do in the future is launch what I call a shopping platform. You will be able to buy exactly the same thing you can buy today online through the car, like a navigation upgrade or a digital key, and we also want to expand the platform to give motorists more options. For example, in China, you can already order food. This is something you will be able to see in the United States.

Mercedes-Benz GLE
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE Image used with permission by copyright holder

How will you pay for it?

The customer will provide his or her credit card information, and we will use this information for the payment. It’s like Amazon or Apple.

Are there any security concerns?

No system is 100 percent secure, but we are as secure as almost all of the systems out there so far. We are using the same security standards. This is not something that is completely new for the industry.

“This is where we’ll use this technology, to enhance and make the life of our EV customers as easy as possible.”

Ordering food directly through your touchscreen sounds cool. What’s next?

For us, this is the beginning of a kind of e-commerce platform. We want to enable the user to order almost everything that he or she is used to ordering directly in the vehicle. At that point, the sky is the limit. The imagination of the people who want to sell something on our platform is what will limit us. We really are building an e-commerce platform. It’s a good revenue opportunity for us, and for whoever is selling things through our ecosystem.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
Chris Chin/Digital Trends

Is this feature something customers asked for, or did you create it hoping demand would pick up?

Both. In Asia, specifically in China, this is something customers are really asking for. People have told us they have spent more than three months without going into a store. Some motorists spend almost two hours a day in their car, and with WeChat they can do everything they want to do. That’s why, there, it was really a pull. In Europe, and in the United States, it was a little bit of a push-pull.

Does electrification open up new opportunities for this platform?

Yes. One of our main concerns as we launch the battery-electric EQC is charging. How do we provide the greatest charging experience to electric car drivers? This is where we’ll use this technology, to enhance and make the life of our EV customers as easy as possible. It depends on the provider, because not all charging stations are compatible with an over-the-air payment system.

But, when possible, you’ll be able to ask the MBUX infotainment system to show you the nearest available charging station, and specifically the ones that accept pre-payment. And then, you’ll be able to drive there, charge, and go, and Mercedes will take care of the rest. The same thing for parking. You’ll be able to drive in, park, and drive off, and it gets paid for via our platform.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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