Drivers Believe Automated Safety Has Prevented Crashes, J.D. Power Says

A majority of new-car drivers with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) say those features helped prevent an accident in the first 90 days they owned the car, according to a new J.D. Power survey.

Among participants in the company’s 2018 US Tech Experience Index Study who have the features, 56% said ADAS has helped them avoid an accident, J.D. Power Executive Director Kristin Kolodge said on the eve of the survey’s release. ADAS, which can include features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, have quickly spread to models at all price levels in the past few years.

The annual survey, now in its third year, tracks the growing adoption and importance of new technologies in vehicles and how consumers perceive them. Consumers overall were more satisfied this year with the technologies in their new vehicles, including features for entertainment and connectivity, comfort and convenience, driving assistance, collision avoidance, navigation and smartphone mirroring, Power reported.

While users’ evaluations of ADAS weren’t all rosy, the positive perception of the technologies may bode well for consumers embracing higher levels of automation, up to and including fully self-driving vehicles, Kolodge told reporters at a lunch even in San Francisco. Trust is essential, and some users’ irritation with the features could erode their acceptance of automation, she said.

Many owners reported using some active safety features consistently. These included back-up and surround-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and lane-keeping assistance. But for adaptive cruise control, only 23% said they used it every time, while 24% said they either never do or tried it and quit. For automatic parking systems, 52% either never used or only tried it. Lane-keeping features came in for the most criticism, and they were rated lower this year than in 2017 with 23% of respondents saying the system in their car was annoying or bothersome. The problem? Among owners who gave lane-keeping a low rating, 30% wanted the system to be more accurate.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently reported that its tests found ADAS performance in some cars was inconsistent and sometimes dangerous. Expert tests like these complement the driver perceptions that Power measures, Kolodge said. The survey also confirmed a trend that might disrupt automakers’ in-car electronics strategies. Smartphone mirroring systems, especially Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, have soared in popularity over the past three years even as they have become available on many more vehicles, Kolodge said.

Automakers may have spent more than a decade refining their in-car infotainment systems, only to find them challenged almost overnight by smartphone-based platforms. For example, 19% of car owners who have factory navigation systems don’t use them, and 70% of those use smartphone mirroring instead, Power found.

Consumers like the Apple and Google systems because they are familiar and free, Kolodge said. Drivers with iPhones or Android phones already know those user interfaces, while in-car systems need to be learned. Already, 52% of navigation users with non-premium cars choose smartphone mirroring, while 39% of those with premium cars have gone in that direction.

Automakers should consider shifting their investments away from areas where other companies excel, such as touchscreen user interfaces and into technologies where they can lead, such as driver assistance systems, Kolodge said but it won’t happen overnight.

“It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow,” she said.

— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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