SUNNYVALE, CA – Mercedes-Benz and its German parent, Daimler, steadily are expanding their efforts to soak up the energy and knowledge of Silicon Valley by building one the largest automotive technical centers in the world-famous technology center south of San Francisco.

‟We have invested a lot in this building,” says Johann Jungwirth, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, which is based in Sunnyvale, CA, and is the oldest and largest automotive research center in Silicon Valley.

‟We are right between Apple, Google and Microsoft and Facebook. It's really important our designers and engineers interact daily with these companies,” Jungwirth says while showing off Mercedes-Benz Research’s striking new offices, which it has occupied since last autumn after nearly two decades in nearby Palo Alto.

The interaction with the U.S. tech companies clustered nearby takes multiple forms and now is basically open-ended, he says. The employees at Mercedes-Benz include a handful of German citizens, but most are young and American.

Mercedes-Benz Research’s projects are diverse.

Social trends in the U.S. are examined by the automaker’s Society & Technology Research Group. A team from Business Innovation, a Daimler think tank, has been studying the development of new business models beyond automobile manufacturing since 2012.

‟We think beyond selling cars,” Jungwirth says.

The Sunnyvale center also concentrates on infotainment and telematics as well as apps such as the Mercedes-Benz Apps and Digital DriveStyle app. Another focus in Sunnyvale is user experience, which includes adapting driver-assistance systems to the U.S. market.

Jungwirth says Mercedes-Benz has had a formal partnership with Google for more than two years and Apple content will be available on the screens of Mercedes vehicles starting in mid-2016.

But informal relationships also are important. ‟A lot of what goes on in Silicon Valley is based on relationships. There is a lot of interaction socially”  in addition to forums and conferences, he says.

‟Learning from these companies, especially about their user interactions, is very helpful,” Jungwirth says. ‟It's needed if you want to be a leader. We can show them to our upper management in Germany. It’s also unique. No other German (manufacturer) has this kind of freedom.”