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Daimler’s new ‘Ask Mercedes’ chatbot

Daimler will soon be introducing a digital assistant called “Ask Mercedes” that ties together previous 
digital customer support projects into a single voice-activated app.

Chief digital officer Sabine Scheunert said “Ask Mercedes” will be available in several markets and languages immediately before being rolled out globally. Mercedes is one of Daimler’s leading car brands.

Scheunert said the “chatbot” will allow both existing and also potential customers to interact with Daimler services, day or night, using voice-activated commands or text-based chat.

Chatbots are software programmes which can respond to posed questions from users using a conversational approach.

Customers can present questions to the Ask Mercedes app when it is installed in the company’s recent model cars, or by using an app or by speaking to a Google Assistant voice-activated electronics controller when they are at home.

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Mercedes recall worldwide

Over one million Mercedes-Benz vehicles are set to be recalled worldwide, thanks to an unintended issue with airbag deployments.

According to a statement from Daimler, an electrostatic discharge as well as a broken clock spring and insufficient grounding of steering components could lead to deployment of the airbag on the driver’s side.

As part of the fix, the statement said dealers would add new grounding to the steering components.

Up until now, no deaths have been reported and the issue is not related to the recent Takata recall.

The recalls covers some 2012-2018 model year A, B, C, and E-class models and CLA, GLA and GLC vehicles.

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Autonomous flying taxi to take off

Dubai will debut the world’s first autonomous flying taxi late this year in collaboration with Volocopter. The German start-up has received $40 million from Daimler, tech investor Lukasz Gadowski and other parties to develop the all-electric ‘flying car’.

“The strong financial commitment of our new investors is a signal as well as proof of the growing confidence in the newly emerging market for electrically driven VTOLs to be put to use as a personal air taxi,” said the managing director of Volocopter, Florian Reuter.

“We deliberately sought a mix of investors with strategic and entrepreneurial backgrounds and were able to implement this perfectly with Daimler and Lukasz Gadowski.”

Volocopter has been developing the aircraft for seven years, and the latest model is able to travel a maximum distance of 27km at 70km/hr. The all-electric motor can be fully recharged in less than two hours.

Other flying vehicles are in development around the word, including the Kitty Hawk Flyer, which has been backed by Google founder Larry Page, and the Terrafugia X, designed by a group of MIT graduates.

The project is being supported by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority. The Volocopter is not the first piece of futuristic vehicle technology to be trialled by the wealthy Middle-Eastern city – Dubai police have announced they will use an autonomous vehicle to assist them with their duties last month.

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German car makers in emissions deal

Emissions have reached toxic levels in many parts of Germany

Politicians and car makers in Germany have agreed to completely overhaul engine software on 5.3 million diesel vehicles in a bid to cut pollution, avoid a ban on diesels and repair the industry’s reputation in Europe.

Justice Minister Heiko Mass told the German newspaper Bild that the agreement was only the first step in an ongoing process, and bans on diesel vehicles in the future would not be ruled out.

“The legal requirements for clean air remain in effect,” he told journalists.

Air pollution has significantly decreased over the past decade, but is still breaching current standards.

In February, the EU Commission found limits for the deadly nitrogen dioxide pollution were exceeded 28 areas of Germany, and was responsible for 10,610 premature German deaths in 2013.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has come under increasing pressure for not doing enough to crack down on vehicle pollution, with Merkel’s close relationship to auto executives heavily criticised.  

However, ministers have been cautious about disrupting the auto industry, which provides 800,000 jobs, and is Germany’s biggest exporter.

“We expect a new culture of responsibility from carmakers,” Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, from the centre-left Social Democrats, said at a news conference.

“There is much to make good – to the environment, to people in cities, car owners and not least to the security of the car industry in Germany and its hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) said the software updates would cut nitrous oxide emissions by 25-30 per cent for the 5.3 million affected cars.

The software update is expected to cost Volkwagen, Daimler and BMW a combined $800 million.

The popularity of diesel vehicles in the EU’s largest market is falling as a result of the ongoing emissions scandal. German diesel car sales fell 12 per cent in July, and diesel now makes up 40.5 per cent of new car sales, down from 46 per cent in 2016.

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