Automakers are building cars that are designed for more than just driving. Thanks to hardware innovations, software integrations, and advances in connectivity, your car is now a place for entertainment, conversations, and more. The debut of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class shows how it's also now a secure hybrid work environment.
The 2024 E-Class is coming equipped with Webex Meetings and Calling, about a year after Cisco first extended Webex Meetings to vehicles, starting with a partnership with Ford.
The new Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be equipped with Wi-Fi and cellular data connections, allowing drivers to download the Webex app from the Mercedes-Benz Car App Store. It will appear directly on the touchscreen of the vehicle's infotainment system, meaning you won't need your phone to connect to your meeting.
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As with other in-vehicle Webex integrations, you can only use Webex's full capabilities -- including video meetings, automatic AI-powered transcription, content sharing, and reactions (such as a thumbs up or celebration emoji) -- when your car is parked. When the car is moving, you can use Webex in audio-only mode.
Bringing Webex to your vehicle, Cisco explains, could be helpful for a range of scenarios -- such as a salesperson who needs to connect with a client while waiting to pick up their child from school, or an architect meeting with their team while at a job site. Cisco says Webex delivers a quality experience, even in a car, thanks to features such as noise cancellation, which can eliminate the background noise of traffic.
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"The expectations of consumers [for remote work] have changed dramatically the past few years," Jeetu Patel, EVP and GM of Cisco security and collaboration, said to ZDNET. In cars specifically, he said, "idol time is more productive than it used to be."
As work becomes more viable in a greater number of public places, "more people will sit in the car to take a call if they want privacy," he explained. "It becomes almost a mini office area."
The trend will continue as cars become more autonomous, Patel said. Physical spaces in cars will change -- steering wheels may disappear, seating arrangements may become more social -- in a way that enables more productivity and collaboration.
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The new E Class vehicles are expected to arrive at dealerships this spring.