By on August 24, 2020

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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49 Comments on “J.D. Power Reveals What Owners Find Annoying About Automotive Technology...”

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I REALLY like the rear facing camera for reversing, and the yellow warning light and beeper which acivates if I signal a change into an occupied land (forget what that is called).

    I favor “passive” aids, those which provide visual or audible information/warnings alone. I am not interested in “active” devices which seek to take control of the car at some level.

    • 0 avatar

      Anecdotally, I think most people would agree with you. The way cars are designed these days, a backup camera is pretty much essential.

      I think you’re referring to lane change warning or blind spot monitoring. I was very much against them when they first appeared, but have come to appreciate them recently for much the same reason as the backup cameras. They are especially helpful in rental cars where I can’t/don’t spend the time to properly adjust the mirrors to eliminate blind spots.

      I’ve even started learning to live with adaptive cruise control, but I still prefer to turn it off most of the time.

    • 0 avatar

      For me, it’s the rear radar that beeps, depending on how close I am to the object behind me. I get to continue to use my eyes for the mirrors.

    • 0 avatar

      “I favor “passive” aids, those which provide visual or audible information/warnings alone. I am not interested in “active” devices which seek to take control of the car at some level.”

      This. A thousand times. And I will not buy any car that doesn’t allow me to permanently disable these passive ‘beep factory’ devices. For those of us who pay attention when we drive, they are next to useless, and actually distract.

      My father, a septuagenarian, is absolutely disgusted with his B9 A4 and his inability to disable the stop/start without having to do so every time he starts the car. And its not an “old fart” thing—I’m considerably younger (of course) and its upsetting that for those of us who actually drive properly that we cannot disable these stupid sensors and “driver aides”.

      I’m holding onto my B8.5 A4 like grim death (without the nannies, and has a mutable proximity beep), but eventually it will have to be replaced, having 106K miles on it now.

      The beeping proximity sensors he had on his previous car (a GTI) also annoys him, but I don’t believe you can even buy a new car without these “driver aides” anymore.

  • avatar

    That chart is a joke…regurgitated industry fluff.

    That “Innovation Ranking” would suggest a modest 5% difference between Tesla and Subaru or Kia…

    If we were to honestly judge how “innovative” a car company is, we’d need a logarithmic scale to display the orders of magnitude between a company like Tesla/Volvo and Ford/GMC/Kia/Subaru….

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. The math says Volvo is 38% better than Mini, but your suggestion of a log chart makes more sense.

      And I’m not sure how ‘innovative’ relates to ‘annoying’ with this tech stuff. There is some innovative tech that is also annoying, and I’d put some Tesla features into this category.

  • avatar

    People have a tendency to emphasis negative experiences. Typical example is we remember having to wait in line at the grocery story, but tend to forget when we we sailed thru. I think the same goes for the nannies. We remember that time it tugged us back into the lane, because we forgot to use the turn signal. We forget the time it kept us from driving off into the ditch. Personally I drive a 2014 Acura TSX so I’m still free to drive myself into the ditch if I so desire.

    • 0 avatar

      This may apply to me. I can remember my wife’s CRV trying to steer me into oncoming traffic a couple times when the lane markings were in poor shape, and I can remember it braking a couple times on the highway for no reason, and I can remember it slowing down for vehicles in the right lane while I’m passing on the left; but I can’t recall it doing anything positive!

  • avatar

    Anecdotally people seem to like:
    1. Back up cameras
    2. Heads up displays
    3. Parallel parking assist
    4. Blind spot monitoring
    5. Bluetooth phone and audio

    People don’t like:
    1. heavily-nested menus
    2. non haptic feed back controls (whether it be “sliders” or gesture)
    3. Voice controls (whether it be “Hey BMW” or traditional)
    4. “Apps” that aren’t audio or navigation related

    Depends a lot on the implementation:
    1. lane-keep assist
    2. adaptive cruise

    • 0 avatar

      I would agree with this entire list.

    • 0 avatar

      We had a number of the likes (and dislikes) you listed when we had our 2016 Sequoia. And we rarely, if ever, used them in the real world, except for the initial fiddling with it when we first took possession of the vehicle.

      Now that we turned over the Sequoia to our head office in WY, still no one uses all the capabilities of the NAV system, backup camera, etc, because it is quicker to do it the old fashioned way, like with a portable GPS such as Garmin or Tom-Tom.

    • 0 avatar

      The voice-control stuff is still a steaming pile, as I found out three weeks ago on a road trip where fortunately I had a built-in Nav system in the car, since the cell service was nonexistent! The Garmin-based navigation in the newer Hondas looks nice and is easy to use, but you have to pull over to be able to work with it because the voice control is useless.

      • 0 avatar

        Amazon EchoAuto actually has decent voice recognition. Occasionally it will miss something, but it’s rare. I have it for navigation and music. The music feature is fantastic. Like just today I first asked for a list of albums by a certain band, the asked for the one I wanted. You can also just name a song and the artist and it will play it. Obscure stuff too. It’s kind of a game finding something that it can’t get. Plus commands to control the house as well. You can turn on certain lights or once I was able to have it put a football game on the tv as I was coming up the driveway. It can also connect into the houses intercom while you’re on the road. The acid test is that it can even understand my 2 year old nephew. I can’t even understand him half the time. Amazon has some amazing voice recognition technology.

    • 0 avatar

      I really like voice commands on my 2013 Ford, but only for infotainment purposes. “call mom”, “play artist pink floyd”, etc. I can’t imagine trying to scroll through such lists while driving.

  • avatar

    Most annoying is anything the dman car doesn’t trust me to do while in motion. There is no shortage of stuff that COULD distract me, they think that one thing is what will finally get me to mow down 7 nuns??

  • avatar

    I had a ‘16 Hyundai Genesis (G80 clone) with the Lane Keeping Assist. It was too intrusive to drive on canyon roads. I daily drove a narrow road with parked cars on both sides. The LKA kept shaking the wheel almost the whole ride. Occasionally the emergency braking system would cut power when a car appeared in the opposing lane on a curve. I turned off the LKA after 2 weeks. IDK what I would have done if it was a newer system and actively and automatically steered the car into the parking lane or worse, sensed a parked car and steered into oncoming lanes. IDK exactly how these systems should work, but if they are not 100% accurate its really worrisome to use them.
    I’ll handle the steering, so no LKA for me, but I do like the Blind Spot Monitoring, and backup cameras and sensors.

  • avatar

    Having experienced many of these over the last few years….I find very few I actually like.

    Blind Spot Monitoring I think is solid. Small orange light and a flash if I turn the blinker on. Nice.

    Auto braking – ehhhh this is about 50/50 to me. Too many brakes or beeps when not necessary

    Radar Cruise – generally no. Only nice thing is a 2 lane road with minimal passing opportunities. Terrible on expressway. People pull in front of you and it hits brakes to hold the gap. Or you just start losing your speed before you start realize what is happening. Wouldn’t pay extra for it.

    Lane Keep Assist – Total garbage. Beeps at minimum, or pushes the steering around against my will (absolutely awful).

    Rear Camera – handy if combined with beepers. But generally i find beepers more than acceptable.

    360 cameras – again meh if you got beepers. hard pass.

    Automatic high beams – also hate em. work, but then any reflective sign or street light and they go low beam.

    Parallel assist – again, pointless if you have front and rear beepers and have even a small amount of driving ability.

    Rear cross-traffic alert – this could be handy. but often it surprises me with the urgent blast of beeping. not a fan of automatic rear braking as part of this system. 50/50.

    The nice thing? It means I don’t really care/feel like I need or want higher trim models. Save some cash :D

    • 0 avatar

      The proximity “beepers” on my car are way too sensitive to be useful for anything. It sounds like the one you have are well designed though.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree, every time I’ve rented a car with beepers I’ve wanted to rip them out of the dash. On the other hand I was dismissive of backup cameras but when my latest car came with it, I was like “wow, how did I survive without this?”

        • 0 avatar

          It might depend on the manufacturer, but I’ll take beepers over a backup camera any day.

        • 0 avatar

          You probably had better visibility in previous vehicles!

          The back-up camera in my wife’s CRV is great because it’s hard to see anything otherwise. But then I get in my 2011 MS3 and turn around and it’s like I have this huge panoramic 3-dimensional screen directly behind me with a much wider visual field. Makes that little screen in the CRV seem kind of pathetic.

          • 0 avatar

            Nah, visibility sucks. I like the beepers because it doesn’t interrupt my ability to use my eyes.

            I’m not against backup cameras. They’re great if you use them in addition to mirrors and windows. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to use them instead of mirrors and windows. That issues doesn’t (shouldn’t) happen with beepers.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yeah, auto high beams. I tried those on my 2020 RAV4. They roasted several oncoming driver’s eyes without dimming. That was the last time I used that “feature”

    • 0 avatar

      “Blind Spot Monitoring I think is solid. Small orange light and a flash if I turn the blinker on. Nice.”

      One thing that nobody seems to touch on—for OTHER drivers, the orange light can, at first glance, make you think that the person is signalling to come into your lane as you pass them. Now, you will say “well, it will blink if the signal is on”, but in the split second you have to react, you don’t get much chance to make that discernment.

      Its very distracting.

  • avatar

    On my 2020 RAV4 I tried the lane assist for maybe about a mile or two that’s it. For 50 years I have relied on feedback from the steering wheel to know what’s going on with the rubber asphalt interface. This lane assist system causes the steering wheel to tug when there’s no situation/ condition going on between the tires and the road. That is flat out inexcusable.
    The radar adaptive cruise control is largely worthless as well. I only use it in slow and go congested city freeway traffic. It’s biggest failing is if you move to go around a truck and the highway bends to the left it picks up the truck ahead and slows down rather than passing it.That’s inexcusable.
    The automatic braking thing on the other hand, did help me out one time. It caught the fact that I was closing on a car ahead of me before I did.

  • avatar

    I find JD Powers incredibly annoying and their worthless “initial quality” ratings. What the hell is “initial quality”? Is that stuff that falls apart in a year but works good while you’re test driving he car? Because that’s not quality, that’s junk. Call it “initial crap” rating.

  • avatar

    None of my cars have any of this stuff, and when I drive the wife’s I turn it all off. I got in trouble for pulling the fuse to her screen though, I “accidentally” erased all her settings (worth it). So that’s my position: put in whatever crap you want, as long as I can turn it completely off I don’t care.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with this attitude is that you are still paying for it. And as long as you are willing to, I, and everyone else, will have to as well.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not though, I drive a Lotus7 replica, an Evo VIII track car and I just got a 98 Tercel (replacing a 99 Altima) as a DD. The only new cars I’d buy are Caterham or Ariel (or a bunch of stuff I can’t afford). The wife is free to buy whatever she wants with her money however.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        And not only are you paying for it when you buy the car, you’ll pay for it again if you have an accident and require repairs. Either upfront or through your insurance premiums.

        The way I look at it, cars are too expensive for me to have to modify my behavior to suit the vehicle. The vehicle exists to serve me. At the very least, I should be able to turn off all of the nannies (and auto start-stop).

        I’ll still resent having to pay for them. But if I don’t have the option to turn it all off, no sale. Period.

        • 0 avatar

          Look, I’m pretty sure my “only buys niche cars and not that frequently” isn’t driving the market here. I’d 100% prefer 100% analog and would (and will) vote that way with my dollar. Hell, none of my cars even have a RADIO. The only creature comfort I care about is working HVAC, but God knows I’ve gone without plenty of times and would go without again for the right car.

        • 0 avatar
          schmitt trigger

          @Steve Biro;
          Exactly what you said.

          But there is another instance where you would also pay indirectly: The resale value.

          If one of those nannies on a particular vehicle model starts having pandemic failures (I’m looking at you Chrysler and Hyundai), word will get around and your vehicle’s resale price will plummet.

          And let’s not forget that repairing anything related to vehicle’s electronic gizmos means paying Space Shuttle pricing.

  • avatar

    Backup cameras are a must have and with several newer cars the rear view mirror is in fact a screen that will show this view. Given the greenhouse of many vehicles this seems like a great idea, looking out the mirror normally offers a mailbox slot view that isn’t of much help. Front cameras are also helpful in tight situations – I wish my current car (C7) had them. They were added in later years to avoid smashing the splitter on curbs or car stops when parking.

    Blind spot warning systems are really good, that light in the side mirror is fine with me. Given how badly people drive I think auto-braking is a much needed piece of tech… but I’ve never driven a car with it so can’t comment on how annyoning it might be.

    My next vehicle will two features I am looking forward to: lane-keep and adaptive cruise. I often do long highway drives and could see these options being helpful. As the hours pile up on adjusting your speed or position in the lane constantly but ever so slightly gets old fast.

    As others stated as long as these nannies have an off switch or some way to configure them to keep the same settings at startup I don’t mind them. When you have to tweak it each time you start the vehicle that gets super frustrating.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised to see Cadillac near the top. Our 2018 Regal TourX with Buick Intellilink was just as good as our 2018 Cadillac CT6E with CUE.

  • avatar

    Oh, and backup cams. Yes great!
    However, I live in a sloppy environment, and unless I can develop a habit of wiping the lens off every time I stop the car, it is worthless because it is blinded by road grime. Automakers need to put an automatic shutter over them to keep them clean.

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds like all of your problems with tech are related to Toyota’s Tech inferiority. I have a Cadillac and my auto high beams work wonderfully. I don’t use the Lane Keep Assist when I’m actively piloting, only when on Super Cruise ( which is hands off driving. My backup camera also has a water jet to clean the lens. Toyota has always been slow to new tech; my co worker had an LCD clock out of 1982 in her 2016 Lexus. Hell, she probably has it in her 2019 too

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds like all of your problems with tech are related to Toyota’s Tech inferiority. I have a Cadillac and my auto high beams work wonderfully. I don’t use the Lane Keep Assist when I’m actively piloting, only when on Super Cruise (which is hands off driving) My backup camera also has a water jet to clean the lens. There is no loud alarms in Cadillac either, just a gentle seat vibration either left, right, or whole bum depending on the direction of the hazard. Toyota has always been slow to new tech; my co worker had an LCD clock out of 1982 in her 2016 Lexus. Hell, she probably has it in her 2019 too

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The Chevy Bolt actually has a little spray cleaner for the rear camera:

  • avatar

    I’m of two minds, having some of the “intrusive” safety aids and the passive safety aids. I don’t notice the “intrusive” when I’m maintaining lane and driving like I should be. Perhaps those who are most aggravated by them are those who need them most because they’re always beeping in response to the driver’s poor choices.

  • avatar

    How are Buick, Chevrolet and GMC so much lower than Cadillac? Save for some whiz bang camera angles, they are all about the same system.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect it’s either one of two things.

      Either it’s because Cadillac just packages the same general options better, i.e. bigger screens and better gauges.

      Or it’s because Cadillac has, finally, managed to turn their demographic around. Personally one of the reasons I got a Cadillac for my last car was because I preferred all the whiz-bang tech features. So if most people getting Caddy’s now are doing so because they want new tech stuff I could see them on average rating it highly. While your average Chevy buyer may not care as much.

  • avatar

    This is the kind of list where I would go with the bottom feeders

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Bluetooth, back up camera, and blindspot assist and rear cross traffic alert are my favorites.

    The cross traffic in my IS works perfectly and has never given me false info. My wife’s Forester is constantly panicking about cars really far away and it gives false alerts way too frequently. If hers was my only experience, I would hate it.

    I had to turn off lane keep assist because 90% of the time it would go off and try to steer me back into the lane I was intentionally doing what it was trying to prevent. I don’t think this is a problem specific to manufacturer.

    The adaptive cruise control works. I don’t typically use cruise control, but I tried it out and my car does come to a complete stop and start going again. But, it makes me super nervous since I don’t trust the witchcraft. Also, it leaves more gap than I normally would and I feel like people are going to try to go around me which will only wind up exacerbating the problem.

    My old Buick’s in-car GPS and the 2019 Regal wagon I tested were completely incapable of guiding me to the Vienna, VA Metro rail station. One day I drove all the way from my office to the station trying to use voice commands to get me there. I know how to get there without it, but wanted to see if there was a faster route. I tried for 35 minutes and arrived in the parking lot still trying to figure out how to get it to find it. It found other Metro stations, but refused to find Vienna/GMU.
    Try it and see if your car can find it.

  • avatar

    There are times where the nannies are too intrusive. That’s usually when I’m in the back country and need to plow through snow or navigate muddy terrain. The nannies re-engage over a certain speed and then take over. They hit the brakes and shut off power and then your screwed. I’m sure that this is more for the lawyers in corporate head office than to keep me from hurting myself.

  • avatar

    I personally like most all of the new safety features since I got my 2020 Chevy Equinox, even the start/stop technology! Lane assist included! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Scares the BeJesus out of me! Ha ha ha

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar
    Funky D

    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!

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