The whizz-kids at Daimler Research Group have done something that’s equal parts silly and ingenious: they’ve adapted a version of Mario Kart (the open-source SuperTuxKart) to work on the MBUX infotainment system of a Mercedes-Benz CLA. It plays the game on the screen to the right of the driver, who can control it with the car’s steering wheel and pedals. The interior lighting system activates in sync with the starting signals in the game, the seatbelt tightens anytime you crash in the game, and the air conditioning blows cool air at you with an intensity matched to your speed in the game.
I played it and I loved it.
The game’s frame rate isn’t perfect, and by the time I got to Daimler’s MWC booth, the seatbelt integration wasn’t working, but what I saw felt so obviously great that I question why it’s not been done before. Let me throw one more caveat in there: maybe I was also reacting to the luxurious feel of the Mercedes-Benz I’d just sat in for the first time. But whatever, I’m now walking around the MWC show floor with a stupid grin on my face.
Over the course of a couple of races, I adjusted to the game’s sensitivity to my turns of the steering wheel, and with the gear-changing paddles serving as controller buttons, I was able to even do a bit of drifting and sabotage some poor souls racing ahead of me. There was a sense of real achievement when I was able to string together a few turns at maximum speed without slamming into a wall or a banana skin.
Nintendo and Mercedes-Benz are familiar with each other, having previously partnered on putting a Mercedes in Mario Kart. Now they’re just reversing the process by putting Mario Kart into a Mercedes. The wild thing is just how good this implementation is, after a mere three weeks of development. Sascha Pallenberg, former tech blogger and current Head of Digital Transformation at Daimler, tells me that the CLA has basically the same Nvidia hardware as the Nintendo Switch, and so Daimler decided to have a little fun with it. He describes it as “the world’s fastest Nintendo Switch,” and I can’t argue with that.
Clarification, February 28th, 1:40AM: Added note to say that the game I played was the open-source SuperTuxKart rather than an officially licensed version of Mario Kart.