Mercedes Says the New A-Class is Perfect for Private Car Sharing

A 'digital key' makes it possible.

Daimler AG

The redesigned Mercedes-Benz A-Class won't come to the United States, but in the markets where it will be available, Mercedes thinks the new hatchback will be perfect for private car sharing. Owners will be able to loan the car out to their friends and family thanks to the Mercedes Me app the automaker said.

An A-Class owner can use the app to assign access to specific people. Those users can unlock and start the car with their phones, or with a "digital key" sticker provided by Mercedes. A standard key fob is still used to start the engine, but it's left in the car at all times and activated when needed by the app.

Not every smartphone conforms to Mercedes' cybersecurity standards, hence the digital key sticker. Based on technology that first appeared in the E-Class, the sticker has a built-in micro controller that allows it to lock/unlock the doors, and start the engine. Users stick it to their smartphones, which need to be placed in a center-console tray (which doubles as a Qi wireless-charging pad) to start the car.

Letting someone else borrow your car is always a gamble, but if you're going to do it, Mercedes' system at least makes the process easier than passing keys around. Mercedes will also have to ensure that security measures are ironclad in order to prevent unauthorized access of customers' cars. Unlocking cars with smartphones may seem cool, but no one ever hacked a physical key.

The A-Class itself gets updated styling reminiscent of the CLS-Class, and debuts Mercedes' new MBUX infotainment system, which features upgraded voice controls and other new features. While the A-Class won't be sold in the U.S., we'll probably get a redesigned CLA-Class and GLA-Class based on the same platform. It's unclear whether Mercedes will offer its car-sharing features on those models as well.