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Car owners 'frustrated' by navigation systems, says report

Posting in Energy

Car manufacturers may be hell-bent on making vehicles more interactive and convenient, but is there a point where too much technology is too much for the consumer?

According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Navigation Usage and Satisfaction study, the 14th to be released annually, the increasing complexity of navigation systems is beginning to impact how happy consumers are with their cars.

The study suggests that owners are becoming frustrated by the complicated nature of modern menu systems, voice control commands and the ways you input your destination.

Researchers identified six factors that contribute to overall satisfaction levels: ease of use; routing; navigation display screen; speed of system; voice directions and voice activation. On average, consumers reported a satisfaction level of 681 based on a 1,000-point scale, which the firm says is a 13-point decrease from 2011.

Most notably, the ease of use category fell, which declined 25 points year-on-year.

More smartphone owners are using their devices as navigation systems while on the road, with 47 percent of owners stating they use a downloaded app for their travels, in comparison with 37 percent in 2011. However, almost half (46 percent) also said they would not repurchase a factory-installed navigation system if their smartphone was up to the same standards and could be displayed on the dashboard in the same way.

Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates commented:

"Manufacturers of navigation systems face a serious challenge as smartphone navigation usage continues to rise and gains preference among vehicle owners. Free apps, up-to-date maps and a familiar interface allow for quicker routing and improved interaction, including better voice recognition. Manufacturers have a window of opportunity to either improve upon the current navigation system platforms or focus on new ways to integrate smartphones."

Input and selection controls were most frustrating for drivers, whereas screen lighting, system errors, dashboard text being too small to read and not enough street names being displayed were also sources of annoyance.

Another key point of the study related to the level of interest in voice-activated controls. 67 percent of car owners without this feature said they would require it in their next navigation system, and 80 percent who currently possess it will buy a system with the same feature in the future. However, even though the idea of voice activation is popular, the study found that satisfaction levels were the lowest in the study, reaching only 544 out of 1000.

"Smartphones and natural voice recognition have raised owner expectations among all vehicle segments, and manufacturers are not yet meeting these demands," said VanNieuwkuyk.

"We're seeing a demand from owners for connectivity with not only other in-vehicle systems, but also their own equipment and smartphone. Navigation systems are no longer viewed as a stand-alone component, but as part of a media, safety and infotainment package, and are expected to seamlessly work together, but in many cases are falling short of owner expectations."

The study is based on responses from 20,704 owners who have recently purchased or leased a new 2012 model-year vehicle with a factory-installed navigation system, and was conducted in late 2012.

Image credit: Jonathan Kos-Read

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— By on January 13, 2013, 8:40 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure