J.D. Power and Associates is supremely interested in multimedia systems these days. In fact, in now incorporates audio, communication, entertainment, and navigation (ACEN) into its initial quality study. If an automaker wants one of J.D. Power’s tombstone-shaped awards, it now has to ensure its multimedia equipment isn’t vexing to consumers. Unfortunately, ACEN has proven the most problematic category for new vehicle owners since its addition to the annual survey three years ago.
The research and marketing firm recently decided to break out its ACEN scores to see which vehicles had the best infotainment systems. However, in this instance, what constitutes superior hardware is simply a lack of customer complaints. For J.D. Power, multimedia system quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles over the first 90 days of ownership.
Since potential problems include everything from technical failures and overall features to how well the system was explained by the dealer and plain general satisfaction, decoding what makes a particular system truly bad is difficult. But a lower frequency of complains always means a better product. Which models shined the brightest?
You’re likely familiar with Amazon’s cloud-based virtual home assistant Alexa. She’s the little voice that lives inside the Echo, a device which allows consumers to manage their calendar, set alarms, create a shopping list, adjust the thermostat, play music, and a multitude of other functions all via voice command. However, if you’re anything like me, you probably just ask Alexa to tell you bad jokes and read the morning news.
Alexa has found her way into cars lately — most notably those produced by Hyundai, thanks to a partnership with Amazon. But it looks like she’s about to find her way into a whole bunch more. On Thursday, Amazon announced the Alexa Auto Software Development Kit, which provides developers a way to easily integrate all of Alexa’s functions into automotive infotainment systems.
Amazon’s Echo has already invaded homes across North America, but it’s now beginning to creep into vehicle infotainment systems. My parents have one and both are quite fond of its ability to answer basic queries through intuitive voice commands. Though my mother refers to the system as my father’s “new wife,” it prefers to be addressed as Alexa when being issued instructions. If you need another point of reference, it’s reminiscent of Apple’s Siri, the computer from Star Trek, and any other automated technology using a female voice as the primary interface.
However, as handy as these systems are, they sometimes make mistakes. Alexa is great at giving me the weather but, when you give her more complex requests, she’ll sometimes get confused. That’s not a big problem when you are able to whip out your phone and go online, but it can be real annoying when driving. Early voice command interfaces in automobiles were infuriating — it was often easier to give up and input whatever information you were trying to shout at Ford Sync, BMW iDrive, or whatever decade-old system you happened to be using.
Thankfully, voice recognition is far better now than it was in 2008. But with so many concerns about automotive safety cropping up, it’s a little surprising that nobody has yet perfected an interface that effectively allows motorists to keep their hands where they belong — on the wheel.
A report by industry analysis firm Hexa Research is positing that the market for automotive infotainment systems will be worth more than $40 billion by 2024.
That’s thanks to rising consumer demand, improved technological capabilities, and improved incomes, according to the report. As it stands, the North American market accounted for a hair over 35 percent of the revenue from the infotainment industry in 2016.
Apple loves it when people buy its toys, but doesn’t appreciate it when other companies try to muscle into its technology playpen.
Whether the tech giant likes it or not, the Volkswagen-owned Seat brand just became the first automaker to design and market an app that is compatible with Apple CarPlay.
If you like your dashboard to function like a 1970s stereo, then you’re an outlier in a society that increasingly desires a Minority Report-style driving experience, according to Automotive News.
A five-year forecast by industry analyst IHS Automotive predicts a steep increase in manufacturer demand for high-tech vehicle controls, meaning more touch screens, gesture controls and voice-recognition technology.
As more vehicles come with infotainment systems mounted in the dashboard console, consumers are beginning to face the issue of losing privacy behind the driver’s seat.
Former Hyundai executive John Krafcik recently spoke about connectivity and autonomy and of the possibility that electronic gizmos in our cars may make us less connected to the driving experience. That’s not the only challenge automakers and drivers face when it comes to electronics in cars. After seeing the missteps that Ford has made with Sync and MyFordTouch, with systems seemingly too complicated or not reliable enough for many drivers, it appears to me that the challenge of chasing a technological treadmill to try and keep cars, which most consumers keep for years, electronically up to date, is a fools errand. Comments to Derek’s post on Krafcik’s statement indicated that there’s definitely a market for less complicated car electronics. People have asked, “why does my car need to duplicate the more up-to-date services that my smartphone provides?” Well, someone at Continental Tire’s electronics and instrument division, VDO, asked that same question and they came up with the Flexible Smartphone Docking Station.
As automakers seek out technology partners for their on-board electronic devices, Ford is leaving Microsoft by the side of the road for a variant of BlackBerry’s QNX-based operating system in future updates to the Blue Oval’s long-suffering SYNC/MyFord Touch infotainment systems.
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- Jwee I think it is short sighted and detrimental to the brand. The company should be generous to its locked-in user base, treating them as a resource, not a revenue stream.This is what builds any good relationship, generosity to the other partner. Apple does with their products. My iPhone is 5 years old, but I keep getting the latest and greatest updates for free, which makes me feel valued as a customer and adds actual value. When it is time for a new phone, Apple past treatment towards me certainly plays into my decisions (as did BMW's - so long subscription extracting pigs, its been a great 20 years). Imagine how much good will and love (and good press) Polestar would get from their user base if they gave them all a "68 fresh horses" update overnight, for free. Brand loyalty would soar (provided their car is capable).
- ToolGuy If I had some space I would offer $800 and let the vehicle sit at my place as is. Then when anyone ever asked me, "Have you ever considered owning a VW?" I would say "Yes."
- ToolGuy In the example in the linked article an automated parking spot costs roughly 3% of the purchase price of the property. If I were buying such a property, I would likely purchase two parking spots to go with it, and I'm being completely serious.(Speaking of ownership vs. subscription, the $150 monthly maintenance fee would torque me off a lot more than the initial acquisition cost.)
- ToolGuy "which will be returned as refunds to citizens of the state" - kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund? Make the amount high enough and I will gladly move to California to take advantage (my family came close to moving there when I was a teen, and oodles of people have moved from CA to my state, so I'm happy to return the favor).Note to California: You probably do not want me as a citizen.
- ToolGuy Nice torque figure.