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Daimler's Khan promises over-the-air updates "very soon" (Photo: Daimler)

Sajjad Khan, who joined Daimler from rival BMW early in 2015, sees the new digital priorities of the auto industry as an opportunity to provide a wide range of benefits to Mercedes-Benz drivers. In an interview with automotiveIT at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, Khan spoke about his new position as Daimler's vice president, digital vehicle & mobility, and laid out some of his priorities for coming years. Following are excerpts from the interview, which will be published in full in the November edition of automotiveIT international magazine. 

Please give us some details about your roadmap and shed some light on your plans to make automotive connectivity better and more robust.For us, connectivity is no longer a feature; it's a given, just like the four tires on a car, or the steering wheel. Connectivity as an enabling technology in the car is a given and, from next year, 95 percent or so of our cars will be fully connected. We see the car as a node in a whole network, The challenge is to define what kind of benefit this brings to the driver and how connectivity can provide a better experience, both from an intelligence and a comfort point of view.

Could you give us some examples of this?With the launch of our Mercedes me app, which is also available in the Apple app store, we are bringing door-to-door navigation as an additional feature. The destination you put in at home or in the office pops up in your car. That's what I mean with an enabling technology. When you switch off your car, you continue your journey using your wearable to get to your final destination.

One way tomorrow's car systems can stay more current throughout their lifecycles is through over-the-air updates. So far, the auto industry has been very cautious in this area. Will we see OTA software updates for Mercedes-Benz cars and when? And will they go beyond relatively simple map updates?You will see this in our cars soon. Very soon. And in answer to your question whether they will go beyond map updates: Yes. OTA will provide an opportunity to keep pace with technologies that may be better than what we have in vehicles today. OTA will then allow us to move forward quickly in these areas.

Until cars drive themselves, automakers will have to help drivers control an ever growing array of functions. How are you approaching this issue and what role will gesture control play in tomorrow's cars?The driver is used to different technologies. They include touchpads, touchscreens, haptic response, touch buttons, gear controls and gestures. We need to make sure we don't overload the customer by providing everything. We choose very carefully in which car segment a particular technology is best for the customer. In some cases, we don't integrate an available technology because it might not be helpful or could provide a distraction.

As the auto industry transforms itself, you're having to work with a whole new category of IT-driven suppliers. How are you partnering with IT and consumer-electronics companies?We have 300 people in our R&D center in Silicon Valley and we have a center in China as well working with IT companies. We have our eyes on both sides of the world and work very closely with this new generation of partners to the auto industry.

-Interview by Arjen Bongard

Read the full interview in the automotiveIT international magazine in November. Subscribe at: www.automotiveIT.com/subscribe.