Verizon Telematics’ Work on Mercedes mbrace Marks New Standard for Connected Cars

September 10, 2015  - By
Mike Peterson

Mike Peterson

VP says company remains “bullish”on in-car Wi-Fi, sees need for both embedded, bring-your-own-device solutions


Mercedes-Benz has been in the news in the past month for offering connected car service as standard for five years on all new vehicles, one of the longest multi-year offers yet. But it isn’t just big news for Mercedes; it’s also a testament to Verizon’s continued investment in connected car technology.

Verizon is one of the longest tenured telematics providers in the U.S. market and has worked with Mercedes-Benz since 2009, said Mike Peterson, vice president and general manager of OEM business for Verizon Telematics, in an exclusive interview with GPS World.

“Mbrace has the widest breadth of services, including remote connection for door lock/unlock, remote vehicle start, a feature that consumers have been asking for for a long time as evidenced by after-market industry,” Peterson said. “We’re also delivering diagnostics data to dealers and adding the ability to access certain apps on the head unit without the user tethering their phone — that’s the big new thing.”

Verizon is exhibiting mbrace at CTIA Super Mobility 2015 in Las Vegas this week. mbrace services include navigation, location apps, remote safety and security features, and advanced travel assistance.

Embedded connectivity is a more expensive alternative to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model. Despite the embedded vs. BYOD debate in the industry at-large, Peterson doesn’t see one way as better than the other.

“Part of it is always demographics. With Mercedes-Benz customers, while the majority are connected with smartphones, the simplicity of having to use a radio head unit as opposed to their phones will be the right experience to create for premium customers,” Peterson explained. “Other price sensitive brands will continue to see BYOD as the way to go.”

Peterson admits the decision to equip all vehicles with the service is in part designed to prime customers so that the technology becomes a must-have. But, he adds, that the connected car creates a relationship between the manufacturer and consumer that benefits both, particularly with regard to safety.

While Verizon is the telematics provider to six OEMs in the U.S., including Volkswagon and Hyundai, Peterson doesn’t take the credit for decisions like the one Mercedes made when extending mbrace’s reach.

“I would call it a partnership heavily influenced by automakers. At the end of the day, the automaker decides what equipment to put into their vehicles. We provide all service, but they very much protect what goes into their car.”

One feature of mbrace that Peterson calls “a big deal” is the ability to turn your vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s a feature that has gotten caught between customer demands and regulator concerns that those increased demands will lead to spectrum-sharing that hampers the progress of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.

“We are quite bullish on Wi-Fi in the car. You’re already equipping the vehicle with a connected device that’s Wi-Fi capable,” Peterson said. “We’ve done considerable research, and it’s all come back very positive.”

About the Author: Bethany Chambers

Bethany Chambers has been a digital editor for GPS World since 2012. She also serves as digital operations manager for GPS World parent company North Coast Media. Chambers is a multimedia journalist with expertise in the business and healthcare fields who has won awards from the National Press Club and the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership. She has a masters in interactive publishing from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelors in marketing from Duquesne University.

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