J.D. Power Reveals What Owners Find Annoying About Automotive Technology

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
j d power reveals what owners find annoying about automotive technology

Today’s automobiles are loaded with the kind of technology our grandparents could only dream about. Unfortunately, some dreams aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and we’ve often bemoaned the many annoyances associated with modern vehicles.

J.D. Power recently shared its Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study, which has been modified to better assess specific features American drivers did and did not enjoy. The general takeaway seems to be that the average motorist feels pretty good about outward-facing cameras and anything else that improves a car’s outward visibility (handy in an era of extra chubby structural pillars).

However, the more intrusive safety inclusions that actively modify how the vehicle responds to the world around it didn’t seem to get nearly as much love, with many respondents suggesting they don’t trust the systems to behave in a predictable manner. It’s something we’re in broad agreement with and echoes many of the complaints we’ve heard from readers, friends, or rattling within our own skulls.

That’s not to say that electronic nannies aren’t impressive. Numerous automakers have provided us with demonstrations of their latest safety suites with vehicles consistently avoiding hazards on a closed course. But they often come undone when subjected to a live environment with more variables and fail to act consistently as companies attempt to outdo one another. “There is wide variation in the execution strategy across brands for how the technology works and when or why it engages,” J.D. Power explained.

Consumers frequently found such systems intrusive and made the overall driving experience more hectic, while others said they offered peace of mind by providing an additional layer of safety. Independent testing has made us wonder exactly how much safety is actually added via automatic emergency braking or lane-keeping with assist, however. AAA has repeatedly shown huge gaps in the technologies’ armor and our own experiences haven’t been much better. But having something there to stomp on the brakes on your behalf could be the difference between life and death in some situations, even if it can’t be reliably counted on in all instances.

Gesture controls were another item that caught the public ire, with J.D. Power suggesting it was everybody’s least favorite new feature. According to the TXI study, gesture controls accounted for 36 problems per 100 vehicles, which was more than twice the rate of the next most troublesome technology. Of those that had it equipped to their vehicle, 14 percent of respondents said they never bothered with it once. Another 16 percent said they had tried it and decided it wasn’t to their liking, with 61 percent saying they used it very infrequently. The primary gripe was that gesture controls weren’t any easier to use than other forms of interfacing with the vehicle — and often less effective.

By contrast, most drivers (73 percent) said they wanted their next vehicle to have integrated rear-facing camera systems and were excited to see how the technology evolved. Ground-view cameras were also a big hit, with 62 percent of respondents saying they’d want to see them on their next vehicle. Fifty-three percent also said they’d be keen to have transparent trailer cams equipped on their successive ride.

But the true purpose of J.D. Power studies is to proclaim a winner. Using a 1,000 point scale, the Tech Experience Index assesses how well this new tech has been implemented, based upon the customers’ general impression vs the number of times the systems screwed up. Volvo was top-ranked overall and led the luxury segment with 617 points. Hyundai was the strongest mass-market brand with 556, placing it behind BMW, Cadillac Mercedes-Benz, Genesis, and the aforementioned Volvo.

Tesla would have also performed enviably had the company not refused J.D. Power access to its customers for the survey in the 15 states it required for an official score. But we don’t know how much stock to put into the TXI, since it takes numerous features and attempts to boil them all down into a highly generalized user experience. The more-useful takeaway seems to be which technological inclusions are getting the most love from consumers and how that will influence the industry response. Don’t expect to see gesture controls being the keystone of any press releases in 2021.

[Images: Otomobil/Shutterstock; J.D. Power]

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  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Aug 24, 2020

    Any partial/level 2/lane keep/adaptive cruise - any attempts at self driving pretty much all suck. If the car can't drive itself without me paying attention, I don't understand the point of having it. Tech for tech's sake and increase the price of the car, but doesn't add squat of value. Here's what's good - ABS, stability control, bluetooth audio/phone, adaptive suspension. In other words, much of the innovation through 2012. Since then, it's been nothing but pushing untested systems into cars making them less predictable and more distracting. Good thing US driver education is so solid and reliable.

  • Funky D Funky D on Aug 25, 2020

    PLEASE make that kind of technology a stand-alone option package. I just want a premium trim that doesn't require all the nannies I hate (and that break or significantly drive up repair costs). Also we need an "I know what I'm doing" button that turns all that crap off. Having had to deal with that in rental cars, I find that the only tech toys that are really worthwhile are CarPlay (or Android Auto), Bluetooth, and backup cameras. The blind-spot monitoring is marginally helpful, the rest I can completely do without!

    • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Aug 25, 2020

      In the current Mazda3 there's an "I think I'm a better driver than I am" button that turns off all the things.

  • Alan GM is still dying. The US auto manufacturing sector overall needs to restructure. It is heavily reliant on large protected vehicles with far more protection than the EU has on its vehicles (25% import tariff).Globally GM has lost out in the EU, UK, Australia, etc. GM has shut down in Australia because it is uncompetitive in a global market. Ford still exists in Australia but is reliant on a Thai manufactured pickup, the Ranger which is Australia's second largest selling vehicle.The US needs to look at producing global products, not 'murica only products. Asians and Europeans can do it. America is not unique.
  • Duane Baldinger Ya my cupcake Mailman will love it!
  • Duane Baldinger Where can I send the cash? It's a surprise BDAY present for my cupcake Mailman. D Duane
  • Art Vandelay Pour one out for the Motors Liquidation Corporation
  • Bill Wade Norm, while true I'll leave you with this. My 2023 RAM is running Android 8 released in 2017.My wife's navigation on her GM truck is a 2021 release, I believe the latest. Android Auto seems to update very week or two. Now, which would you rather have? Anybody with a car a couple of years old NEVER sees any updates. Heck, if your TV is a few years old it's dead on updates. At least cell phones are rapidly updated. If your old phone won't update, buy another $200 phone. If your GM vehicle doesn't update do what, buy another $50,000 GM vehicle?