CARS.COM — Look, technology can be hard. And not everyone has access to a surly teenager who can sigh in exasperation and then explain how the thing does the thing for the umpteenth time. Car technology is advancing by leaps and bounds — and, evidently, being ignored by consumers.
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A 2015 survey from J.D. Power and Associates found the top-five least-used tech features in cars; some make sense, but some are a bit disappointing:
1. In-Vehicle Concierge
Fine. This makes sense. Who wants to talk to a stranger for help finding a gas station? More importantly, who wants to pay a subscription fee for the privilege?
2. Mobile Routers
These are great for passengers trying to get work done on the go, and maybe a secret weapon to getting a five-star rating for ride-share drivers. But it too costs money, eventually, and data charges aren't cheap. Also, you absolutely should not be using this while driving.
3. Automatic Parking Systems
This is the land of rugged individualism, and no one wants to admit their car can park better than they can. But! Not only is that true whether you like it or not, it's a great way to freak out passengers and bystanders when the car starts steering itself. G-g-g-ghost car!
4. Head-Up Displays
This is a two-way street (car puns!). On the one hand, there can be some valuable information displayed here that helps keep your eyes off your gauges and on the road. On the other hand, many of these displays are barely — if at all — visible when wearing polarized sunglasses. They can also be a pain to adjust for different drivers.
5. Built-in Apps
The "How do you do, fellow kids?" of car tech. All the tech a car really needs at this point is a way to play some sort of audio and tell the driver how to reach a destination. If it can't do those things itself, a way to let a smartphone do them is fine.
The larger problem is that for many drivers, even seasoned motorists, the ways to access these tech features vary from car to car and even model year to model year. That's why some dealerships have taken it upon themselves to offer tutorial sessions for new car buyers to explain all the gadgets and gizmos available on their brand-new car. According to Ford, if a car buyer doesn't learn how to use a feature in the first 30 days of ownership, it's likely that feature will remain unused — like an estimated 20 percent of vehicle technologies, per J.D. Power.
That's incredibly unfortunate, because that buyer paid for that feature either as a standalone option, part of a package or even as a standard feature before adding options. But according to Ford, training sessions are often conducted when a customer is rushed or distracted. That's why one Phoenix-area dealership has begun offering on-demand house calls "aimed at providing comfortable, convenient technology training for new customers," right in the driveway and when their schedule allows.
For those who don't have access to a helpful dealership, there's always My Car Does What?, a website that helps explain what safety features do and how they work. For more model-specific answers, you can also check Cars.com's "What Does This Button Do?" series.
At the end of the day, however, if you can't get a hands-on tutorial, nothing beats reading the owner's manual.
There is a man at the State basketball game reading his Volvo's owner's manual. Rock. Bottom. pic.twitter.com/IoSYIypiP5— Whit Salmon (@whitsalmon) February 18, 2017
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