Weekly Brief: Drivers don’t use in-vehicle tech in their cars

In this week’s Brief: J.D. Power, Verizon Telematics, Android Auto, Wired Magazine, Uber, Carnegie Mellon University, Tesla, Harris Poll, eCall, Garmin, Royal Truck and Equipment and Micro Systems.

 

In-car connected technology is the wave of the future — the mobile trend that has carmakers investing billions of dollars to increase the appeal of their cars and light trucks. There’s just one problem: Drivers don’t use it.

 

That’s the gist of the J.D. Power 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, which finds that at least 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of the 33 technology features measured. The five features owners most commonly report that they “never use” are in-vehicle concierge (43%), mobile routers (38%), automatic parking systems (35%), head-up display (33%) and built-in apps (32%).

 

Drivers aren’t using in-car tech because they don’t find it useful and because it often comes built into packages that they didn't even want. Lack of use rates go up when dealerships don’t explain features on a new car and when features aren’t activated when the vehicle rolls off the lot.

 

“In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & HMI research at J.D. Power. “In-vehicle connectivity technology that’s not used results in millions of dollars of lost value for both consumers and the manufacturers.”

 

In other news, Verizon Telematics debuted "hum", an aftermarket plug-in device that provides drivers with vehicle diagnostic data, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location and maintenance reminders and alerts. Two year subscription plans start at $14.99 per month in the U.S.

 

Google made Android Auto easier for developers to use thanks to a new testing tool called Desktop Head Unit. The tool transforms a computer desktop into a screen that emulates Android Auto in the car. Developers can test their Android Auto apps by connecting their phones and workstations via USB.

 

Remember those two security researchers who hacked into a Jeep and sent a journalist with Wired Magazine careening off a St. Louis highway? Uber just hired them. Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek will join Uber’s joint research team with Carnegie Mellon University, which focuses on autonomous vehicle technologies and automotive software security.  

Tesla’s latest electric vehicle, the Model S P85D, broke the Consumer Reports rating system, earning a dazzling, if impossible, 103 out of 100 and eventually causing Consumer Reports to recalibrate its entire system. The car presents a whole bunch of firsts for EVs, including 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds. Which is great news if you can afford a car that costs $128,000.

 

On that note, a Harris Poll of 2,225 U.S. adults surveyed online found that price is the biggest inhibitor for EV and hybrid vehicle uptake, followed by range anxiety. As a result, the industry is stuck on 3% total vehicle penetration, with roughly the same number of total vehicles sold (about half a million) for each of the last three years.

 

eCall has finally arrived — on bicycles. Garmin’s new Edge Explore 1000 provides bikers with crash incident detection via an integrated accelerometer, which automatically sends a cyclist’s location to emergency contacts in the event of an accident. The aftermarket device also includes preloaded maps, navigation and points of interest. As for eCall for auto, we’re still in the waiting game.

 

Finally, highway work zones are about to get safer thanks to autonomous vehicle technology. Truck mounted attenuators (TMAs) are the rigs that follow behind highway work crews; they carry flashing arrowboards to direct traffic and a shock absorber should distracted drivers crash into them, which they do on a near daily basis, causing harm to TMA drivers and work crews in the process.

 

Enter Royal Truck and Equipment, the world’s biggest TMA company, and military autonomous tech company Micro Systems, which jointly road tested a self-driving TMA last week. The TMA vehicle receives GPS position data with speed and location from a leader vehicle, which has a driver and work crew on-board. Check out the video here. The Florida Department of Transportation is set to launch a pilot this year.

 

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.


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