Mercedes and Microsoft have teamed up to develop virtual maintenance technology for the coronavirus age

Mercedes Benz Virtual Remote Support 2
A Mercedes-Benz service technician uses the Virtual Remote Support system. "It's like having an expert on your shoulder," said Mercedes' US head of customer service.
  • Mercedes-Benz USA has partnered with Microsoft to bring virtual-reality and online-collaboration technology to vehicle service.
  • Called Virtual Remote Support, the tech combines a VR headset with digital conferencing.
  • Mercedes said the technology could greatly improve service times and enable greater safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Modern vehicle service centers are exceptionally clean when compared with the garages of yesteryear, and technicians spend so much time interacting with technology and computers that a mid-20th-century wrench-turner wouldn't recognize the profession.

And the job is about to get even further from its oil-drenched past. Mercedes-Benz USA announced on Wednesday that it has partnered with Microsoft to bring virtual reality and online conferencing to what was once the world of grease monkeys and gearheads.

Service personnel at 383 Mercedes-Benz USA dealerships will now be able to use two Microsoft technologies —Microsoft HoloLens 2, a VR headset, and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, a collaboration tool — to diagnose problems with vehicles and deal with them in hours rather than days.

The tech, called Virtual Remote Support, also enables service to be handled with appropriate levels of social distancing as the coronavirus pandemic continues. 

Mercedes Benz Virtual Remote Support
A Mercedes-Benz technician using the Microsoft HoloLens 2.

"This is a massive shift in the way we do business ... and is especially timely with the new realities of COVID-19 and our desire to keep employees safe," Christian Treiber, Vice President of Customer Services at MBUSA, said in a statement.

"Today's vehicles feature more than 100 million lines of software code. Through our partnership with Microsoft, we have a new paradigm for technology support and communication that helps our dealers and technicians master the complexity of these vehicles while eliminating travel time and onsite visits. It's like having an expert on your shoulder."

The systems were rolled out to all MBUSA dealerships in August, after the companies ran a pilot program at 13 dealerships earlier this year.

Technicians and specialists around the world can now work together in real-time, with someone in Germany able to assess a problem with a car in the US, for instance.

MBUSA noted that in addition to speeding up service and improving the overall customer experience, Virtual Remote Support could also reduce employee travel, reducing MBUSA's carbon footprint.

"By leveraging HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, Mercedes-Benz USA has seen rapid time to value, moving from proof of concept to broad deployment in a matter of months," Microsoft vice-president Alysa Taylor, said in a statement. "Microsoft is honored to be part of Mercedes-Benz USA's disruption of the automotive industry."

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