Car Tech Problems Could Hinder Driverless Vehicles’ Acceptance

Problems with vehicle technology continue to affect reliability, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). The number of problems with infotainment, navigation and in-vehicle communication systems—collectively known as audio, communication, entertainment and navigation or ACEN—has increased and now accounts for 20 percent of all customer-reported problems in the study. It is now the “most problematic area on most vehicles,” according to the report and has caused a 3 percent year-over-year reduction in overall vehicle dependability.

“The increase in technology-related problems has two sources,” says Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. “Usability problems that customers reported during their first 90 days of ownership are still bothering them three years later in ever-higher numbers. At the same time, the penetration of these features has increased year over year.”

The problems most often reported by owners are Bluetooth pairing/connectivity and built-in voice recognition systems misinterpreting commands. Navigation system difficult to use and navigation system inaccurate are also among the 10 most frequently reported problems.

Good Luck Going Driverless

While automakers, suppliers and even the U.S. government are enthusiastically moving toward putting fully autonomous vehicles on the roads, J.D. officials say consumers need to have confidence in the technologies currently in vehicles before they will be willing to take their hands off the wheel of self-driving cars.

“The industry clearly has more work to do to secure the trust of consumers,” Stephens says. “Right now, if consumers can’t rely on their vehicle to connect to their smartphone, or have faith that their navigation system will route them to their destination, they’re certainly not yet ready to trust that autonomous technology will keep their vehicle out of the ditch.”

According to the report, more than 50 percent of owners cite expected reliability as one of the most influential reasons for choosing a specific make and model.

The Most Reliable Brands

Lexus ranks highest in vehicle dependability among all nameplates for a fifth consecutive year, with a score of 95 problems per 100 vehicles. Porsche follows Lexus in the rankings, moving up from fifth in 2015 then comes Buick, Toyota and GMB.

Key Study Findings

The study, now in its 27th year, had the following key findings:

  • Among owners who experienced a Bluetooth pairing/connectivity problem, 53 percent said the vehicle didn’t find/recognize their mobile phone/device;
  • Among owners who indicate having experienced a voice recognition problem, 67 percent say the problem was related to the system not recognizing/misinterpreting verbal commands;
  • The number of engine/transmission problems decreases to 24 problems per 100 vehicles in 2016 from 26 in 2015.
  • Seven of the top 10 problems are design-related. Design-related problems account for 39 percent of problems reported in the study, a 2-percentage-point increase from 2015.

The study is based on responses from 33,560 original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded from October through December 2015, and covers 177 specific problem symptoms grouped into eight major vehicle categories.

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