Another key area on which Mercedes-Benz Research concentrates is ‟big data,” which is collected, sifted and repurposed by companies such as Google and Amazon. Half of Amazon's revenue comes from ‟recommendations” created with a combination of big data and contextual awareness, Jungwirth observes.

With the consent of the owner, Mercedes-Benz  can use the vehicle and customer data to create a unique profile of how the vehicle is used, Jungwirth says: ‟It’s the concept behind ‘My Mercedes.’

‟We can simplify things. The car becomes a concierge. The car knows their habit. Knows where you want to go and what music you want to listen to, based on the time of day and day of the week.”

The car also can be calibrated to ‟know” such things as when to turn on the seat heaters based on the season or the outside temperature.

‟The car should do it for you. This is really the next step. It also fits the Mercedes-Benz experience. We think it can create a passionate relationship between you and the car,” Jungwirth says. ‟We improve the embedded systems, but we also focus on the portable.”

Thus, motorists could use a service such as NEST, which manages the technology in a living space by programming home appliances, heating and cooling, security and lighting. NEST could send an estimated time of arrival so the house is properly heated or cooled and the lights are on upon arriving home.

‟It's up to the customers to decide what information they want to visualize,” Jungwirth says. ‟You can show if you're an eco-driver. We see customers are interested in this. The goal is to continue their connected life.”

Mercedes-Benz has experimented with the technology required for autonomous driving for the better part of two decades in Germany, but kept most of the technology under wraps. Now some of the expertise is being shifted to Silicon Valley, where autonomous driving is a topic of great interest thanks to Google’s flashy self-driving car project.

The world seems to be dividing into two schools: one that likes to drive and another for whom it’s a chore well-suited to automation, notes Axel Gern, who heads Mercedes-Benz’s autonomous-driving research project in Sunnyvale – and says he loves to drive.

Mercedes S-, E- and C-class vehicles already come with features such as adaptive cruise controls that allow semi-autonomous driving in stop-and-go traffic with the driver present. ‟We are improving these systems, and (our) goal is to launch a new system every two years” that can be updated with over-the-air software, Jungwirth says.

Remaining a leader in today’s automotive business means being an innovator in both autonomous driving and digital technology, he says. ‟We want to own the software. We think this is intellectual property. We’ve been among the first in all of this. I’m certain we’ll manage to stay ahead.”