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Car and Driver: Welcome to the Machine Learning, Mercedes-Benz Edition

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Mercedes-Companion-App2

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Your car may not say much, but it knows what you’re up to. Among other things, it knows where you are, where you’ve been, and when. Based on the time and the day of the week (which, in many cases, it also knows) it can even take an educated guess as to where you’re going next. This, in a nutshell, is an example of what’s called machine learning, and carmakers are putting it to work for you. One example of this is the Mercedes-Benz Companion App, which has been quietly available in the iTunes store for a year or so.

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iPhone Companion_App

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When downloaded to a compatible iPhone and in combination with an Apple Watch, users can just say where they want to go and when, and the app leverages the phone’s navigation to guide the user on foot to their car, whereupon directions are transferred to the car’s navigation system. Once the destination is reached, navigation is transferred back to the mobile device for walking directions to the door.

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But wait, there’s more. Calendar events such as a doctor’s appointment or meeting will prompt the system to ping the user when it’s time to go, factoring in traffic along the way and allowing extra time or choosing an alternate route if needed.

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Where the machine learning part really comes into the picture is with regular events or trips that aren’t in the calendar, such as a weekly tennis lesson, daily drive to work, or what have you. Once a user opts in, the car learns these regular trips, and will start to predict where you’re going and when. And again, it will suggest better routes if there’s traffic along the way.

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A user has the option to opt out at any time, or for specific events such as a visit to their bookie, to a vendor of controlled substances, or anything else they’d like to keep to themselves.

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Compatible now with the C-class and the S-class, the Companion App will roll out on other Mercedes-Benz vehicles as redesigns come out. Other features are also in the works, from vehicle-status updates to more, likely creepier, stuff.

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