Automakers are investing heavily in designing their own infotainment systems that can support everything from viewing text messages to providing navigation, but customers are hesitant to use the systems.
Kristin Kolodge, the executive director of driver interaction at human machine interface at research firm J.D. Power, led a 2016 study that found that more than 50% of car owners never used their infotainment systems after 90 days of purchase.
The study, which was conducted between February and August 2016, was based on a survey of 13,269 people who had purchased or leased a 2016 model-year vehicle.
It found that 39% of the people who said they never use their in-vehicle systems use another device, like their smartphone, as a replacement. The study also found that 56% of people who did try using their in-vehicle systems stopped doing so within the first month.
A Deloitte survey of 22,000 consumers in 17 different countries found that this trend is unlikely to change.
US respondents said that systems that allow consumers to design and personalise vehicles, control automated systems in their homes, and help manage daily activities are the least useful in a car.
“Companies that are doubling down on in-vehicle technology that allows occupants to better manage their daily activities or control various home-based systems may need to reevaluate their technology strategy,” the survey reads.
Kolodge said the main reason people elected not to use their in-vehicle systems, or gave up on them after a while, was because they were difficult to figure out.
“We saw quite a number of hand raisers that said… even technologies like radio, they have difficulty understanding,” Kolodge told Business Insider. “So it’s not a problem just for the advanced technologies, it’s across the board.”
But it’s not just a matter of usability, but general comfort. As Kolodge points out, people are used to relying on their phones for navigation, so they feel more inclined to use an app like Google Maps than attempt to use their infotainment systems.
“It’s easier because they learned on their phone and might feel it’s better able to execute their tasks. That’s what manufacturers are up against,” she said.
However, there is a caveat to all of this. The study found that vehicle owners tend to like driver assistance features, like the back-up camera that appears when reversing and lane-keeping warning messages.
It found that vehicle owners were the most satisfied with those collision avoidance technologies and least satisfied with their navigation systems.
The Deloitte survey also found people have a growing interest in buying cars with advance driver assistance technology, like adaptive cruise control. Of the US consumers surveyed, 43% expressed interest in partial self-driving features, a 5% increase since Deloitte last conducted the survey in 2014.
Kolodge points out that collision avoidance systems have an inherit advantage because you can’t replicate those features with your smartphone.
“Those technologies we’re talking about, there is a competing technology out there, a portable device, a smartphone,” she explained. “But there isn’t anything like that for collision detection. We don’t have anything where we can say, ‘Oh, we will use this instead.'”