Mercedes-Benz Technology Helps Put Tsarnaev Brothers in Law’s ‘Mbrace’


Many brands are respectfully coming forward with various kinds of support for the victims of the Boston bombings last week and for Beantown itself. And then there’s Mercedes-Benz, whose products played a singular role in actually bringing the crime and terror spree to its end.

“It’s a great feeling to have been able to assist with that,” Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland told brandchannel.

It was common knowledge that the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly had carjacked a Mercedes-Benz ML 350, taking its owner on a rambling journey around the Boston area on the night of April 18—a trek that ended up in the death of one brother and the capture of the other that same night in Watertown, Mass.[more]

Now the Boston Globe has come out with a story that details the carjacking incident from the point of view of the 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur who was unfortunate enough to be driving his Mercedes that night. It turns out that in addition to the bravery of the man known as Danny, the Mercedes-Benz telematics system known as Mbrace also played a crucial role in bringing the whole saga to its end.

As the Globe story recounts, once Danny escaped from the Tsarnaevs at a gas station and got a 911 call placed to police, the authorities were able to track the ML 350 through the two-way GPS technology embedded in the vehicle. That’s how police caught up with the terror suspects and ultimately brought their havoc to an end.

“After the 911 call, authorities asked that vehicle tracking—one of 24 features in Mbrace—be activated,” Boland explained. “After we verified all the information and that the owner had given permission, the system was activated. And obviously we were very pleased that it was used to help locate the vehicle, and then to update the locations as the vehicle moved.”

It’s not the first time that Mercedes-Benz telematics or “infotainment” technology, or that of other auto makers, has been used for such lofty purposes. “A couple of years ago we had an owner whose car was carjacked—but with a baby still in the back,” Boland said. “Through Mbrace, we were able to locate the vehicle and the police were able to return the baby safely to his mom.”

For decades, OnStar, the General Motors telematics system, has been notifying authorities when a car has been in an accident and airbags have deployed. Such notification technology is widespread in the US auto industry today.

But in a nod to the important privacy concerns involved with such technology, Boland cautioned that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t give law-enforcement authorities, or anyone else, carte blanche to backtrack a vehicle through Mbrace. “Typically we would have to reach the owner, and only the owner—not anybody simply related to the owner—or we would require something from a court,” she said.