Visual Computing a Highlight as Mercedes-Benz Celebrates 20 Years in Silicon Valley

by Danny Shapiro

Digital technology is transforming more than the once dowdy dashboard.

It’s changing the way carmakers like Mercedes-Benz — the first to establish an outpost in Silicon Valley — design, build and sell automobiles. It’s a trend that’s making the Valley synonymous with automotive innovation.

This month marks the 20-year anniversary for the Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America office. What started with just 20 employees working out of a small space in Palo Alto has boomed into a powerhouse with a workforce approaching 250.

The modern, open office acts as a think tank for the mobility of the future, and houses a garage for customizing cars with new tech. This lab is composed of engineers, designers and visionaries looking at the future of automotive design, user experience and deep learning for autonomous driving.

Mercedes-Benz' scale model concept car at Silicon Valley office
One-quarter scale concept car models are on display throughout Mercedes-Benz’ Silicon Valley R&D facility.

One of the prime demonstrations at the facility involves the new Concept IAA vehicle unveiled in Frankfurt, Germany, earlier this month.

Together Mercedes-Benz, NVIDIA and The Foundry — a company that develops creative software for visual effects, games and design artists — demonstrated how their joint efforts dramatically accelerate the process of creating a next-generation digital cockpit experience.

Previously, designers first made renderings and then sent the assets to the engineers to program into the car. With NVIDIA’s automotive solutions and The Foundry’s “Project Dash” software, designers can create high-quality user interfaces and test them immediately inside the car. What originally took one or two months to build and test can be done in real time.

Mercedes-Benz rendering demo
NVIDIA technology helps Mercedes-Benz with everything from car design to the creation of next-gen digital dashboards.

To showcase this, Mercedes-Benz displayed the instrument panel from the Concept IAA vehicle, which can physically transform from a design mode to an aerodynamic mode. Using the NVIDIA automotive development platform, this vehicle cockpit highlights Mercedes’ next-gen, high-resolution, high frame rate, user interface concept, offering a glimpse into Mercedes-Benz’ car of the future.

Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA vehicle digital dashboard
Powered by NVIDIA, the Concept IAA vehicle offers a glimpse into the future of digital dashboards.