Starting today, Nov. 16, Mercedes-Benz USA will offer owners of its vehicles a telematics service that includes applications they can access from popular smart phones.
The service, known as mbrace, offers features that go beyond the type of safety and security features that other telematics services offer, said Erik Goldman, president of Hughes Telematics Inc. Hughes created mbrace.
Drivers can tap an icon on their iPhones or BlackBerrys to lock and unlock their car doors remotely or find their vehicles on a map. Mbrace also can provide quick access to roadside assistance and account information from Mercedes-Benz Financial.
Mbrace service will cost $280 a year. It is free for the first six months.
The Hughes software platform is flexible, allowing Mercedes to add applications as they are developed, said Sascha Simon, Mercedes' director of advanced product planning.
About 300,000 Mercedes owners have Tele Aid, the company's prior telematics service. Tele Aid customers have the option of switching to mbrace by visiting their dealers to get a software patch, provided they did not buy their vehicles between Nov. 15, 2008, and Nov. 15 of this year.
For Hughes, the Mercedes deal is a milestone. The Atlanta company has promoted its telematics technology for several years, but Mercedes is the first automaker to launch it.
Hughes suffered a setback in July when its contract with Chrysler was terminated as part of the automaker's bankruptcy. Hughes was supposed to install telematics units in 2010 Chrysler vehicles.