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Enough with all the apps in my car! say drivers

Lucas Mearian | June 6, 2014
Industry research as well as a focus group revealed that people don't want more apps in their vehicle, but they want apps that are as intuitive and work as well as the ones on their smartphones.

DETROIT — Drivers are tiring of auto makers embedding apps into their cars — the main complaint being that they only want essential apps that work as well as those on their smartphones, according to new research.

The research, presented by automotive market research firm SBD, was buttressed by a focus group organized by the Telematics Detroit conference here this week.

The focus group was made up of six drivers, identified by first name only, who participated in a panel discussion. The drivers overwhelmingly chose two functions that they wanted in a car's infotainment system — navigation and music. Everything else was seen as either a convenience or a dangerous distraction.

The Tesla infotainment system was popular among test users in a focus group at Telematics Detroit. (Photo: Lucas Mearian/Computerworld)

Each driver was given an hour to experiment with six car infotainment systems from each of the leading car manufacturers plus Tesla Motors, the electric car maker.

"Music and where am I going. Everything else is about driving. Safety... that's what I'm most concerned with," said Megan, one of the panelists. "All this other stuff seams OK, but it's very distracting."

Having Google Search embedded in a car topped the list of features the drivers said they wanted because it was fast, intuitive and worked every time.

"There's just so many things you can do with it," said Neal, another panelist. "The information is instant. There's no lag time. And, it saves so much time."

Neal said he likes using Google Search and navigation on his smartphone over his car's telematics system because the car always takes longer to find a location and often offers 10 or more search results that aren't related to the desired destination.

The second most popular app the drivers wanted was Pandora, the Internet radio and music streaming service. Most complained that the SiriusXM radio offered with the new car offered stations with repetitive music playlists. Pandora, on the other hand, learns a user's preferences or allows them to be customized while still offering an endless variety of music, the drivers said.

"Does Pandora run for free in cars?" Neal asked. "I'd love to have Pandora, but I don't want to pay a premium to have it stream into the car. I have a phone I can use for that."

Andrew Hart, head of advanced research for SBD, said auto makers choose the wrong apps to embed in their cars because in the rush to catch up with smartphones and tablets, they forget about usability and responsiveness.

Today, there are 173 apps developed by automotive manufacturers and embedded in cars in the U.S., according to Hart.


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