There are big infotainment displays. And then there’s Mercedes-Benz’s “Hyperscreen.”
The German automaker just unveiled a mammoth, pillar-to-pillar, 56-inch touchscreen that will debut in the upcoming EQS luxury electric sedan. The Hyperscreen is the centerpiece of the automaker’s second generation MBUX infotainment system that eschews physical buttons in favor of a completely digital (and voice-controlled) in-car user experience.
To be sure, the Hyperscreen isn’t one screen, but several displays embedded in one solid piece of curved glass that spans the entire dash. Based on early images, there appear to be at least three screens embedded in the display: an instrument cluster behind the steering column, a central infotainment screen, and an additional screen facing the front passenger.
TO BE SURE, THE HYPERSCREEN ISN’T ONE SCREEN
The Hyperscreen will first appear in the EQS, a luxury electric sedan that Mercedes has said will go into production in late 2021. It will be powered by MBUX, which is short for “Mercedes-Benz User Experience.” First introduced in 2018, MBUX is one of the more capable automaker-created, voice-controlled infotainment systems on the market.
Mercedes says the Hyperscreen will include something called “zero layers,” in which the user no longer has to scroll through a variety of sub-menus or give voice commands “as the most important applications are always available in a situational and contextual way at the top of the driver’s field of vision.” The automaker provided a couple of examples, including:
If you always call one particular person on the way home on Tuesday evenings, you will be asked to make a corresponding call on that day of the week and that specific time of day. A business card appears with their contact information and – if it’s stored – their photo will appear. All MBUX suggestions are linked to the user’s profile. If someone else drives the EQS on a Tuesday evening, this recommendation would not be made – or another one is made, depending on the preferences of the other user.
The Hyperscreen will include a total of 12 actuators beneath the touch-sensitive surface for haptic feedback. Two coatings of the cover plate are said to reduce reflections and make cleaning easier. The curved glass itself consists of particularly scratch-resistant aluminum silicate. And analogue air vents are embedded in the surface at either end, offering an interesting blend of the digital and physical.
ANALOGUE AIR VENTS ARE EMBEDDED IN THE SURFACE AT EITHER END
The Hyperscreen won’t appear in a production car until the late 2021 release of the EQS, but the new version MBUX will see its debut in the new S-Class, which was first unveiled late last year. The updated infotainment system will let drivers save various preferences like seat settings, interior lighting color, favorite radio station, and more. These personal profiles can be enabled or disabled by using the new security features, or even loaded in other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. A fingerprint sensor in the main touchscreen and voice recognition will come standard, and there is a PIN setting as well. Buyers can opt for a version of the car with cameras that allow for facial recognition, too.
Vehicle touchscreens have grown larger over the years, with some automakers assuming that bigger equals better. Among production vehicles, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade’s 14.2-inch screen is particularly noteworthy, as is 2019 Ram 1500’s 12-inch screen. And the forthcoming Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV is promising a mind-boggling 33-inch screen. The Tesla Model 3’s 15-inch screen, which floats above the dash rather than hugging the interior’s curves, has set the bar high for electric cars — one that Mercedes seems eager to vault over.
Of course, it remains to be seen how distracting to the driver all these screens will be. Without a robust driver monitoring system to ensure drivers stay focused on the road, these ultra-large screens can be a huge liability and safety risk. A recent study by AAA found that many digital infotainment systems turning up in newer cars may be distracting enough to increase the risk for accidents, especially for older drivers.
Mercedes says its zero layer feature will hopefully reduce driver distraction — though that will need to be proven out. “The goal was a concept without distraction of the driver or creating complicated operation,” Sajjad Khan, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG and CTO on the new MBUX generation, said in a press release. “We didn’t want to build the biggest screen ever in a car. Instead, we have developed special screens with a perfect ratio of size and functionality for maximum user-friendliness.”