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‘Ask Mercedes’ – The End of the Car Manual As We Know It

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“How do I turn on my rear defroster?” and “What type of fuel does this car need?” are the kinds of questions that can send new car owners diving into glovebox for the car manual. Or, they simply start pressing random buttons, hoping for the best. Those days, however, may be over.

Ask Mercedes covers about 100 of the most commonly-asked questions about the use of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle.

Daimler AG and IBM have jointly developed the virtual assistant, “Ask Mercedes,” based on IBM Watson conversational technology and the IBM Cloud. The chatbot helps drivers get immediate responses to questions about their cars. From December on available in South Africa and Malaysia (India and Hongkong following in 2018) in the E- and S-Class, the intelligent chatbot Ask Mercedes leaves (almost) no questions about the functionalities of these vehicles unanswered.

Ask Mercedes is designed to help not only Mercedes owners – who are getting behind the wheel of increasingly feature-rich vehicles – but also users of car sharing or rental services who may be particularly unfamiliar with newer updates. Ask Mercedes can either be downloaded as an app or accessed via Facebook and other messenger services, with future plans to embed this AI assistant in the vehicle itself.

Car manuals are usually consulted only as a last resort, and sometimes not at all – which can compound what might start out as a relatively minor issue. Mercedes’ goal is to ensure that all drivers are able to quickly and easily access accurate information about their vehicles.

Recognizing that many users are more willing to query an app, rather than flip through a manual or phone a call center, Mercedes has brought AI from IBM Watson to the experience – introducing an application that knows the car and its functionalities by heart. Users can pose questions specifically about their vehicle, as they would to a knowledgeable Mercedes expert, and can also ask general question about Mercedes features, such as the new EQ design for Mercedes electric vehicles.

By making Ask Mercedes available on multiple channels – including via Facebook Messenger – Mercedes is helping to provide drivers with a consistently high level of support, whether they’re asking a quick question or investigating a more complex issue. Either way, the carmaker wants to ensure that drivers can get back on the road quickly and safely.

To make sure drivers are getting the most precise information, Ask Mercedes can also pose follow up questions to better understand what the driver is asking. It can also answer questions with the aid of multi-media content, such as graphics or drawings.

But the chatbot also knows its limits: If it realizes that it cannot answer a question, it refers the user to additional information or the call center.  As the vehicles become ever more sophisticated, technology can also play a role in enhancing the driver’s comfort with these changes. Above all, technology like Watson is a tool to assist humans – to help them make better-informed decisions, to help answer their of-the-moment questions and sometimes, to help with a smoother ride.

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