Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a new range of digital services called ‘Mercedes me connect’, available across its fleet of vehicles from 2017 onwards. Before I get into the details around this, a bit about some of the cars I got to drive at a media event earlier this week at Zwartkops raceway.
The company showcased its full AMG43 sports models, available in the C-Class range in sedan, coupé and cabriolet. Other models include four SUVs (GLC and GLC Coupé; GLE and GLE Coupé), and an SLC 43 roadster. The 4MATIC models have 3L twin turbo V6 engines (270kW and 520Nm of torque). We got drive some of these vehicles on the road, around the racetrack, and on the skidpan. I’ve come to realise the more I get to go on a skidpan, the more I enjoy it; it’s such a thrill. The SLC was fun to drive but flashy, whereas the GLE was super comfortable, and the Sport+ mode is really loud (everyone around you can hear the popping sounds). If you want to read about the actual car, check out Cars.co.za which includes pricing.
Going back to the ‘Mercedes me connect’ services, I’ve been told that it’s called ‘connect me’ in other markets, but in South Africa it will known as ‘me connect‘. Five areas that make up the digital platform is ‘move me’, ‘assist me’, ‘finance me’, ‘inspire me’ and ‘connect me’. All these services can be accessed on the web through mercedes.me, or through the smartphone and tablet apps on iOS and Android. The feature and all services related to it are available on all 2017 models going forward. Once you purchase your car, your online profile needs to be set up by the dealership, who will link it to your VIN number, etc.
Some highlights include:
– A unique geofencing feature that lets you know if the car leaves or enters a specific area, predefined on the map. For example, tracking your child at university (you will get notified when they arrive or leave campus) or fleet control, etc.
– A live tracking feature that uses GPS on the car to locate it in real time, like if it gets stolen. The service in South Africa is turned on by default and the only way to disable it is through the web portal or calling customer care. Sort of like the “find my iPhone” feature, however, Mercedes don’t offer a recovery service. If your car does get stolen, you will have to go to the police.
– Remote door unlocking and locking basically lets you use your smartphone to unlock the car. Using the app, you will need to put a PIN code before the car unlocks. So if your spouse parks the car at the airport or mall and leaves the keys hidden inside, you can use the app to unlock it with a code, retrieve the key, and be off. The app lets you unlock it currently, not start the vehicle.
– You can choose presets when you first set up your online profile, so that if you leave home at 07:45, you can opt for the aircon to be turned on at 07:40. This feature is only available on the hybrids (C350e; S500e; GLE500e)
– Parked Vehicle Locator will help find your car in a parking lot. It will give you walking directions within a range of 1.5km in unfamiliar locations… or well, mall parking lots.
– The route planning option works with any app that has a share function, so Whatsapp, Google Maps, etc when a pin is dropped. Just share it and the Mercedes Me app will appear. I tested this function on an Android. This then sends it to the connected car, paired with the app. Really simple, instead of using a car’s GPS system and you can’t find the suburb so you can’t proceed.
– How to videos… I’m highlighting this because it’s so overwhelming driving a car packed with the latest and best technology but it’s no fun if you don’t know it exists and nobody has shown it to you. The app has a bunch of videos that shows you how to operate the interior system, book a service, pair your smartphone with the vehicle, etc.
– If your brake pads need to be replaced, the app will notify your dealer (preselected), who will then give you a call to arrange this. You can also check the status of your vehicle within the app for tyre pressure, coolant level, wiper fluid, etc. I love this, I mean who has the time to flip through a manual to check what warning signs mean? (Although, I’m getting used to my 5-month-old-car telling me what these things mean on the screen inside it).
And once you’re in ‘me connect’ via a tablet:
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 14 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com