Dislike? Mercedes-Benz Wants to Put Facebook in Your Dashboard

Earlier this week, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz USA unveiled “mbrace2,” an in-dashboard service that enables the use of Facebook, Yelp, and Google behind the wheel. The service will likely be available in all 2013 models.

Mercedes' mbrace2 system allows drivers to update their Facebook status while driving. Photo: ##http://www.pcworld.com/article/248098/mercedesbenz_mbrace2_hands_on.html##PCWorld##

Mbrace2 will be the latest entry in a growing list of built-in communications interfaces currently offered by major automakers. Ford, GM, BMW, and Kia all feature systems that allow drivers to “read” and “write” emails or text messages using voice commands, which distracted driving prevention group Focus Driven says doesn’t cut it as a safe alternative to hand-held devices. (Mercedes’ new system is operated by knob, not by voice.)

The move was almost inevitable, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships and Platform Marketing Dan Rose told Reuters:

“Now that cars have screens that are intelligent, you would expect that more and more car manufacturers will want to make those screens capable of allowing people to connect with their friends and take advantage of the social context that comes along with that,” Rose said in an interview.

“One of the core things that people do on their screens in the car is GPS navigation and the ability to see which of your friends are nearby is something we think will be really interesting for people.”

So where is the line between “really interesting” and “dangerous distraction”? After all, the announcement comes at a time when the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended a ban on the use of all portable electronic devices, GPS devices excepted, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has made the anti-distracted driving campaign something of a cornerstone issue for his department. So how will Mercedes’ new feature fare in the face of multiple public awareness campaigns and regulatory efforts aimed at combating distracted driving?

To date, U.S. DOT has made no judgments regarding these in-dash communications systems. But in a move that shows at least some recognition of the system’s potential for distraction, Mercedes has programmed mbrace2 to disable certain functions while the car is in gear, like web browsing and Facebook’s News Feed and Wall features. However, drivers can still scroll through phone numbers and addresses of their friends, check event information, and update their statuses while the car is in motion. Mercifully, Mercedes’ version of Facebook will not support third-party apps like Farmville.

In the end, though, mbrace2’s limitations may end up curbing its potential to distract. In a hands-on review of the system, PCWorld pointed out that, besides the stripped-down functionality of the apps, “Websites also look less-than-stellar on the Mbrace2’s interface, so you may just want to use your phone instead — after all, you’re already parked.”

  • carma

    facebook in cars.  HUGE dislike…

  • Streetsman

    With all the need for in-dash entertainment, DVD’s, touch-screens, social media, phone calls, text messages and the like, it seems clear that what drivers want – what they really want – is not to be driving! Get on a train and you can do all that stuff, and eat a sandwich, and use the bathroom. Problem is, the trains just aren’t going where people want.

  • JamesR

    I wouldn’t make such a blanket statement. I have a car and hate all of that extraneous crap. I want my car to basically be a four wheeled, self-powered version of my road bike. A lot of those frills are there to keep passengers happy and drivers have no business messing with any of it while operating the vehicle.

  • Kevin

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • mikesonn

    “I’m currently stuck in traffic.”

    At least they could make it say, “I am traffic.”

  • #hitandrun

  • Two of my least favorite things, facebook and cars.

  • RichardC

    This is relieving. I’m tired of having to steer with my knees while I use my phone to do all my texting and status updating as I drive. I’m sure putting those capabilities on a big screen in my dashboard will make it much more convenient. Glad to see Mercedes has my best interests at heart. Can they integrate YouTube as well?

  • How come no one ever integrated note pads and books in the car dashboard?

  • Anonymous

    “GPS navigation and the ability to see which of your friends are nearby.”

    I know that for me, personally, I’d love to be able to hop in the car and drive around aimlessly until my car tells me one of my friends who is so insecure they need to constantly upload their location to some inane website is nearby. I mean, it’s not like when I’m in the car, it’s because i need to GO somewhere. Rather than stalk people online, I find it’s much more effective to find their physical location through a third party and then let them know, apropos of nothing, that I’m available to hang out. Who has the time to make plans anymore?

  • Joe R.

    The real thing car companies should be developing if they insist on putting on these distractions in vehicles is self-driving cars. Once the technology is developed and proven, do away with letting people drive their cars entirely. Think of the benefits. Far fewer, perhaps nearly zero “accidents”. Very low cost insurance because of the low accident rate. Absolutely no need to have driver’s licenses. And no need for parents to spend inordinate amounts of time chauffeuring their children. Minors too young to drive could use the family car since no driving skills are needed.

    Or better yet, just develop a decent public transit network. Leave the driving to professionals while the passengers play with their iThingys.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe these computers should be placed on the right side of the passenger seat– if someone’s riding along they can use them to their full potential, and if someone’s driving, they’d have to pull over and switch seats to interact with it.

  • Cberthet

    Facebook + GPS in Mercedes : Your friend is nearby…make a right turn..oooops! you just ran over your friend !

  • Cberthet

    This calls for a massive petition. How is that matching with banning all texting and phone activity in a car? It? Pretty much like installing a wet bar in a car .

  • maaaty

    Maaaty is currently in a Mercedes-Benz ML350 on 37th Street.
    Maaaty is currently in a Mercedes-Benz ML350 on 38th Street.
    Maaaty is currently in a Mercedes-Benz ML350 on 39th Street.
    Maaaty is currently in a Mercedes-Benz ML350 on 40th Street.
    Maaaty is currently in a Mercedes-Benz ML350 turning left onto Existential Crisis Avenue en route to Narcisissm Lane.

  • Max Power

    Can they hook it up to the airbags to let a driver’s Facebook friends know when this in-dash annoyance has led to another crash?

  • Anonymous

    Easily one of the lamest features ever. If someone is so neurotic they have to update facebook constantly even while driving, well, maybe they should spend their money on a therapist, not an add on doodad like this.

  • Davistrain

    File this under “Just because something CAN be done, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done.”

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