A system developed by an Atlanta company that allows drivers to lock or unlock their cars with an iPhone or Blackberry or locate their vehicle in a crowded parking lot via a map on their smart phones is now available in all Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold in the U.S.

The service, called mbrace, was developed by Hughes Telematics Inc. and will be offered by the German automaker in all new vehicles sold by its dealers in the U.S., according to a Mercedes-Benz news release. This is the first launch of the mbrace system.

The new service replaces Tele Aid, which has been offered by Mercedes-Benz for the last decade.

Hughes, founded three years ago in Atlanta, previously had an agreement with Chrysler Group LLC to offer the service, but Chrysler canceled after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year. 

Through the end of October, Mercedes-Benz had sold 153,606 vehicles in the U.S. in 2009, according to a Nov. 3 company news release.

The Hughes partnership with Mercedes is not limited to new cars. Most Mercedes-Benz customers with Tele Aid will be able to upgrade their cars to the mbrace system, according to the Mercedes-Benz news release.

The new system equips the vehicle with a global positioning system. Since smart phones also have GPS, drivers can communicate with their cars by phone, locking or unlocking them, or locating them via a screen on the phone if the vehicle has been lost or stolen.

Mbrace also allows automatic notification of an operator if the car is involved in a collision and roadside assistance, which allows the driver to talk to an operator for help with mechanical problems or other emergencies.

The service is standard on most Mercedes models and optional on others. Customers get six months of free service when they buy a new Mercedes. After that, they pay a $280 annual subscription fee for the basic service.

Mbrace is currently offered only in the U.S. although the system is designed to work anywhere in the world and Hughes hopes to expand abroad, the company said.

Hughes, which along with its subsidiary NetworkFleet Inc., has 256 employees and offices in Japan and Sweden.

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