J.D. Power Dependability Rankings Prove We’re Frustrated with Car Tech

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2017 All-New GMC Acadia Denali Infotainment

Take a look inside a car today and compare it to one from only five years ago and the change in technology is striking.

Infotainment screens are getting bigger and sometimes multiplying so there are two on a car’s dashboard. The number of options on that screen has also increased so we can listen to music, access the internet, and pretty much treat our cars like roving computers. It sounds great, but according to the latest J. D. Power dependability study, it’s frustrating as heck.

Their latest J.D. Power dependability results ranked Lexus, Porsche, Buick, and Toyota in the top four spots making them the least likely to garner complaints from owners. People like these cars, but that doesn’t mean they like everything about them, including their darned infotainment systems.

This isn’t a new problem, and it’s one automakers have been trying to overcome since the onset of the whole rush to make connected cars the norm. Every carmaker wants to be the first with new features, and that means they’re rolling them out faster than people can become comfortable with them.

It causes frustration, and it’s a distracted driving hazard. You might be able to connect your phone to your car, put it away, and do everything with a touchscreen and voice commands, but complex systems prove to be just as bad for driver concentration. Screaming repeatedly into the air in an effort to get your car to call your wife and tell her you’ll be late for dinner is not a good thing.

According to Detroit Free Press, the theme of frustration with new tech is a serious problem. The biggest culprits are wireless connectivity, navigation, and voice-recognition software.

It helped cause the average number of problems per 100 vehicles to rise from 147 last year to 152 this year. The glitches that have you calling the IT guys at the office now have drivers calling automakers to complain about their cars.

These problems aren’t ones that fade over time, either. It might seem that it would only be a matter of getting used to a car’s technology, just like learning a new piece of software on your desktop computer. The J.D. Power report proves otherwise. The problems that owners report during the first 90 days of ownership are the same ones they’re complaining about three years later, and the numbers actually go up.

One potential solution is already rolling out in select cars. Instead of dealing with an automaker’s own infotainment software, they’re making cars work with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to duplicate the experience people already know and are comfortable with on their phones.

This year’s survey collected data on 3-year-old vehicles, so it’s a very narrow window of data in an area that is changing very quickly. How well the attempt to integrate known mobile phone systems directly into car infotainment systems works won’t be known for another few years.