Mercedes soups up in-car experience with TikTok, Google partnerships

2023/02/24 Innoverview Read

Dive Brief:

  • Mercedes-Benz is bringing more robust integrations from Google MapsTikTok and other third-party apps into its vehicle systems, according to announcements made during a strategy update event. 

  • Starting later this year, touchscreens in the company’s E-Class sedans will carry TikTok, with the ability for both drivers and passengers to browse their separate feeds. The experience is configured for in-car use, allowing for likes and comments, and follows safety precautions for when the vehicle is in motion.  

  • Mercedes also revealed a long-term strategic partnership with Google that will see it build a branded navigation experience that weds in-car data with Google Maps technology. This is the first application of its kind in the auto category, the announcement said. 

Dive Insight:

Mercedes detailed a spate of new capabilities this week, several of them centered on app integrations for its MBUX infotainment system. Automakers have placed renewed focus on their in-car experience to compete more closely with trendsetters like Tesla, which allows drivers to stream content and play video games from their digital dashboard screens.    

Previous Mercedes in-car apps worked by mirroring activity on the user’s smartphone through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. For its E-Class vehicle, Mercedes developers have created a new “compatibility layer” that allows for direct app installation and a more native-feeling interface. The software overhaul is intended to not only make app interactions more intuitive, but also enable future apps to be added to cars faster.  

Along with TikTok, E-Class models will now have access to Angry Birds, Zoom, Webex by Cisco solutions and the Vivaldi web browser, along with a video-streaming portal called ZYNC. These services can take advantage of in-car features, like video and selfie cameras for meetings, though Mercedes noted that image transmission will be disabled while in motion for safety reasons. 

TikTok might receive the most attention from the partner lineup. The fast-growing social platform has become a favorite among young cohorts that automakers are eager to win over. The ByteDance-owned app has steadily pushed past its mobile roots into areas like connected TV, making in-car channels an intuitive next step while giving advertisers another screen to reach consumers. Drivers who do not have an existing TikTok account can still engage with the in-car app, viewing a top content feed that is more heavily moderated. 

TikTok’s jump into the auto category also arrives during a period of heightened data-privacy scrutiny, with lawmakers concerned about its ties to China. The European Commission this week banned the service from its official devices, while U.S. regulators have again raised the possibility of an outright ban.  

Mercedes is also looking to shore up its tech bona fides through the Google partnership, which includes the creation of a branded navigation system built on Maps infrastructure. The deal broadly speaking will rely on the search giant’s know-how while trying to preserve Mercedes’ “unique luxury brand and feel,” the announcement said. 

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