2009 Los Angeles: Mercedes tech allows front seat DVD watching

Mercedes-Benz has a new dual-view navigation screen that will allow front-seat passengers to watch DVDs while the car is in motion. Known as SplitView, the feature is a work around to laws that cause a DVD playing on the front screen to shut off when the vehicle is moved out of park. At the same time, the driver sees the usual navigation or audio information.

At the 2009 Los Angeles auto show, senior Web editor Phil Floraday and I sat in the front seats of an S400 Hybrid testing the technology. From the driver’s seat, wrenching your neck over the centerline of the car reveals the passenger’s view. In our case , that was a Coldplay music video that was also being piped through the audio system. The system also comes with wireless headphones for the passenger.

Seated normally, the screen has the same clarity of a typical navigation or DVD display. Vertical rows of pixels are staggered to display the two different images while a filter masks the driver from seeing the passenger’s content and vice versa.

The eight-inch display will debut in the 2010 models of the S-class and CL-class as a $700 option, but will inevitably spread across the Mercedes range. When paired with the rear entertainment package, the systems can display different content.

Land Rover and Jaguar offer a similar technology in Europe, but to date they claim they can’t bring it to the U.S. market due to legal restrictions.; Mercedes says thirty-six states currently permit their dual-content screen. To deal with the other fourteen states, Mercedes will ship all vehicles from the factory with the dual-view function disabled. Dealers in the states which permit the technology will then enable it.

Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin currently do not allow the dual-view screens, but Mercedes says they are lobbying to change the laws so they can offer SplitView in fifty states.

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