Behind closed doors at Mercedes-Benz’s tech-filled Silicon Valley R&D facility

(Credit: Tim Stevens/CNET)

If you gather a room’s worth of automotive historians together and ask them who made the first car, you will surely stir up some spirited debate. But, once it settles down a bit, the majority will nod and point toward Dr. Karl Benz’s 1886 Patent-Motorwagen. It only had three wheels and not a single USB port but is generally considered the first vehicle designed from the ground up to be powered by a non-equine engine. You could call it Victorian-era forward thinking.

Automotive progressivism is a rather different thing today. Spend a few months investigating the wrong alternative power train or saddle your car with last year’s iPhone connector and you might as well just tell your dealers to pack in and go home. Car buyers are savvier than ever, and while there are few international brands more decidedly Germanic than Mercedes-Benz, its many designers and engineers are well aware that a global perspective is required to stay globally competitive.

Touring the Mercedes-Benz Sunnyvale R&D center (pictures)

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