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Home / Features / Mercedes E-Class adds TikTok, but do cars need to be huge phones with wheels?

Mercedes E-Class adds TikTok, but do cars need to be huge phones with wheels?

Selfie cams and Zoom in your car: a wheely good idea – or enough to drive you mad

App icons and Mercedes logo driving along a road
Road photo: Larisa-K

Last year, I argued BMW’s subscriptions for seat warmers suggested the car maker had learned the wrong lessons from mobile. Now, the upcoming Mercedes-Benz E-Class adds TikTok creation capabilities, making it impossible to escape the notion cars are becoming giant phones – albeit ones that are marginally less pocketable than a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

The E-Class’s MBUX system has a massive ‘superscreen’ display. This spans the dashboard – and will presumably place emphasis on the ‘BUX’ part. Want more pointless apps for your car? Tap here to empty your wallet!

So baby, you can sleep TikTok while I drive

The superscreen is in reality multiple separate displays designed to look like a single unit. The passenger can gawp at their own stuff, independently of the driver’s display. This handily eradicates the need for anyone in the car to actually communicate. The driver’s view of passenger content is intentionally limited, so they don’t get distracted by the latest TikToks.

However, they can then park and fire up TikTok on their own screen, kicking off TikTok warfare. Each person will feel compelled to record and upload increasingly bitter TikTok retorts to the other, rather than, you know, actually talking to them. Mercedes-Benz and TikTok don’t reveal whether you’ll be able to use the car for that.

But Merc does, terrifyingly, offer an optional selfie cam for the driver. So when your E-Class is parked, you can have your Zoom or WebEx meeting – most of which will involve yelling at the passenger to “turn that TikTok down, PLEASE”. Then you can ‘relax’ with a game of Angry Birds. (Alas, there’s no word as to whether you can ping the annoying avian sods into traffic via AR. Perhaps in 2024.)

Mercedes-Benz E-Class interior with TikTok app
Stuck with a boring driver? Screen them out with, er, a screen.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz (with TikTok for my friends)?

So we’ve moved on from ‘don’t text and drive’ to ‘have a conference call in your car’. The inference is once governments loosen pesky regulations regarding automated driving, even the driver will be able to do all this on the go. 

But what’s the point? Why is Mercedes bolting all these features directly on to its vehicles, and embarking on a one-way trip to having you spend hours inside a giant phone? Mostly, because of money and control. Cars once had pretty neat tech. Sat-nav! CD players! But the advent of smartphones meant mobile devices blazed past. Cars became a frustration, with it taking approximately six days to get even the priciest model to communicate with your blower over Bluetooth.

CarPlay and Android Auto fixed that for the consumer, by making a car’s software an extension of your phone. That’s good for you, but not for the car folks watching the phone guys eyeing up the car market. Hence: pushback. The car folks now want to control everything, and are layering on new tech that’s unnecessary and expensive – and yet that everyone will clamour to have. Because if there’s one universal constant beyond death and taxis, it’s that humans like shiny things.

It’s the only way to live: in cars

We’re seconds away from live-streaming your commute on Twitch, a score on your windscreen updating whenever you overtake a ‘competitor’ while making a rude gesture, like a sad middle-aged Power Drift reject. Or, worse, a world where cars drive themselves while you shoot TikToks for your literally several adoring online fans.

It’s like the world is determined to transform into a terrifying, resource-hungry, narcissism-fuelled take on The Jetsons, where each corporation carves out its own space to bleed you for every buck it can. One might argue there are better, greener alternatives to human living, and point out when someone said “it’s like you want to live inside your phone”, that was a warning, not a recommendation.

So be wary when an upcoming car integrates further human comforts, like a fridge, a toilet and a shower. One day, you’ll wake up and try to open the door to leave your 2033 luxury vehicle. “I’m sorry, Dave,” it will say. “I’m afraid I can’t do that – unless you record four hours of TikTok and resubscribe to the $999.99 front door in-car purchase.”

Still, perhaps that will be the next viral hit: TikToks of people locked inside their cars, screaming “LET ME OUT”. Me, I’m going to take a big step back – especially if Mercedes buys a load of TikTok shares.

Related: BMW’s subscriptions for seat warmers are a bum deal for car owners

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.