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A leading research firm has confirmed this week what many nay-sayers to autonomous vehicles have long suspected. People don’t really want tech that drives the cars for them.
J.D. Power and Associates’ annual technology experience study shows a high percentage of drivers today so dissatisfied with tech like lane-centering and other driver-assistance alerts that they disable the systems in their new pricey vehicles.
Automakers have been creating a suite of separate and interconnected systems based on cameras, sensors and software all designed to take function after function away from the human driver and to make vehicles more accident proof. Eventually, the idea is to be selling self-driving cars by 2040 that won’t even have a steering wheel inside the vehicle at all.
The study, released Tuesday, looks at the way drivers interact with, or choose to disable, advanced driver intervention systems in vehicles including lane-centering, collision avoidance, “infotainment” services, smartphone mirroring services like ApplePlay, active cruise control and more–38 separate technologies.
The study finds that while the respondents generally like having collision avoidance systems that will engage the brakes to prevent run-ins with stationary objects like trees or moving objects like other vehicles, lane centering (which corrects steering if the driver veers across a lane line), or active cruise control (which automatically decelerates when the sensors find a car ahead that is too close) are among the least favorite.
Dissatisfaction with the executions of the tech can cause the customer to disable them and/or avoid purchasing the brand again.
The top rated model in the study was an unlikely, small-volume performance vehicle, the Kia Stinger, which scored highest at 834 points for how well consumers like its tech. According to Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power, the Stinger posted a satisfaction score above 800 in five of the six study categories–driving assistance, head-up display, instrument cluster/dashboard read-outs and smartphone mirroring.
Other top rated cars for tech usability were The Hyundai Kona, Kia Forte, Toyota C-HR, Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Expedition and Porsche Cayenne.
“Automakers are spending lots of money on advanced technology development, but the constant alerts can confuse and frustrate drivers,” said J.D. Power’s Kristin Kolodge. “If they can’t be sold on lane-keeping — a core technology of self-driving — how are they going to accept fully automated vehicles?”
To be fair, automakers expect an influx of technology systems to grow on consumers, especially young ones who are fearless with new technology replacing older drivers more set in their ways.
The study also found that automakers have overdone it, perhaps, on entertainment and connectivity apps. Among the 29 percent of owners who have discontinued use of built-in apps, 46 percent say they “do not need” them and 18 percent say they “have another device that performs the function better.” It’s not so necessary, it turns out, to see one’s facebook feed while driving or to know where every museum is in the area in which you are driving.
J.D. Power’s study is based on responses from more than 16,400 owners and lessees of 2019 vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership.
The Center for Auto Research in Ann Arbor Michigan has studied the matter too and has found that sixty-percent of drivers have turned off so-called “driver assistance” systems that make alarm sounds or beeping at them.
But the march goes on toward vehicles that drive themselves. Automakers are spending so much money to develop the technology that traditional rivals are teaming up to share the expenses. Ford and Volkswagen have partnered, and so has BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
These companies are willing to share research and development costs because they don’t feel that the system platforms themselves will differentiate their brands among consumers, but rather it will be the quality of the experience customers have interacting with the tech environments that each company designs.
If they are right in the bets they are placing, perhaps then the focus should be on the 40% not turning off these systems rather than the 60% that are.