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Weary of Warnings: J.D. Power Study Finds Safety Tech Annoys Many Drivers

Honda Collision Mitigation Braking System

Advanced safety technologies have proliferated so much that even today’s affordable cars have features that would have required loading a luxury model to the gunwales four or five years ago. In 2018, mass-market automakers like Honda, Nissan and Toyota equipped more than half their cars with automatic emergency braking, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Today, cars as inexpensive as the 2020 Nissan Versa pack that plus lane departure warning and pedestrian detection, all standard.

Related: Which Cars Have Self-Driving Features for 2019?

Such features can make for a cacophony of alerts — chimes, indicators, messages or some combination of them. And a new study by J.D. Power finds many owners are fed up.

J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Tech Experience Index Study, published today, surveyed more than 20,000 consumers earlier this year, most of whom purchased or leased a model-year 2019 vehicle during the previous 90 days. Nearly a quarter of the group found alerts “annoying or bothersome” from systems that mitigate lane departure or actively center the vehicle, the study said. Such alerts range from hands-on-the-wheel warnings to lane departure chimes. For those who find them annoying, more than half said they sometimes disable the systems; among those who weren’t annoyed, only one-fifth or so indicated the same.

Collective Confusion

This isn’t a new trend. In 2017, an IIHS study found drivers turned off systems that mitigate lane departure nearly half the time. But J.D. Power’s findings suggest that even as such systems evolve and proliferate — with the best among them driving complaint rates on the warnings as low as 8 percent — the industry still has a long way to go.

“There was a wide variety of complaints,” wrote Kristin Kolodge, J.D. Power’s executive director of driver interaction and human-machine interface research, in an email to Cars.com. “A large majority dealt with general uncertainty about how, when and why the system operated the way it does.”

That applied to each of the driver-assist technologies, Kolodge added, with top offenders being lane-keeping and lane-centering technologies, as well as forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

Apple CarPlay Tops Android Auto

J.D. Power’s study, now in its fourth year, measured driver-assist tech alongside five other categories of driver-centric technology, including multimedia systems and smartphone mirroring. Speaking of the latter, some 7 in 10 owners reported having Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or both features in their vehicle. CarPlay users report higher satisfaction than their Android counterparts, scoring the integration 799 on a 1,000-point scale versus 767 for Android Auto users, Kolodge said.

Last year’s study found, among other things, higher dissatisfaction among vehicles that require a console-based controller to operate a dashboard display, rather than a touchscreen. But the controllers might be catching up.

“It is a close race this year between both input modes, and not a statistical difference,” Kolodge said.

Top Cars for Tech

Affiliated automakers Hyundai and Kia took the lion’s share of awards for overall technology satisfaction. That’s unsurprising, as the automakers’ vehicles generally boast straightforward, intuitive controls. Two segments — small luxury cars and large luxury cars — lacked enough data for an award. Here are the rest:

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