Mercedes Respects the Hell Out of Silicon Valley

Daimler execs visited Google, Apple and a slew of other tech outfits in southern California. They came back impressed.

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Freshly returned from a trip to California's tech centers, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche tells Welt am Sonntag that he and other Mercedes senior executives were surprised by the progress made by Apple, Google, and others.  “Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed,” he said, “At the same time they have more respect for our achievements than we thought.”

According to the automotive industry's most-famous mustache, the trip was no idle fact-finding mission. “There were concrete talks,” Zetsche related, then immediately threw up the expected walls. “I will not say anything about the content.”

His comments can be interpreted several different ways. Naturally, those believers in the mythic Apple iCar will gleen this as a hint toward that project's existence. It could just as easily mean Daimler met with the Silicon Valley folks to discuss algorithms, mapping, infotainment and/or a host of other automotive tech. We’re not sure. What we do know is that Mercedes walked away impressed. There are things going on in the southern parts of San Francisco that the public hasn't even yet dreamed of, bleeding edge projects with clever A.I. and compact sensor bundles. Somebody's probably even built a functioning Jonnycab.

However, if there's a word to be used as a road-map to the self-driving future, it's that R-E-S-P-E-C-T that Google and Apple et al laid at the feet of the establishment. Mercedes-Benz has a vast dealer network. They have a well-laid-out brand profile. They have perceived prestige and everything from plug-in hybrids to twin-turbo-V8 tire-melters to diesel-powered work vans. Not to mention the Unimog.

If the purveyors of meta-data analysis and smartphone tech have something up their Betabrand sleeves, it doesn't follow that it's already on wheels. Far more likely, instead, is that Silicon Valley rolled for initiative by showing the Mercedes-Benz board members equipment and software to be packed into the nose of the next-generation GLA compact crossover (or what-have-you). So, don't expect to see a three-pointed badge on the front of Google steering-wheel-less koala bear of an autono-pod. Instead, look for a little Silicon Valley tucked away in the operating system of your next C-class.