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Infotainment Systems Are Too Damn Complicated

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Consumer Reports, as they have been wont to do in recent years, recently smacked down the reliability of Ford, Honda and automakers because their in-dash electronics systems are so wonky. Young and old agree: infotainment systems are just too damn complicated.


The magazine called out these systems in December, but now they've released a video that shows just how frustrating they can be for many drivers. I could just as easily call this video out as "Olds don't understand technology LOL", but you know what? They're right.

Age factors into it, but CR says even younger people are annoyed:

The survey also found that age played a significant role in respondents' experience with their systems. Almost 70 percent of drivers who are 65 and older reported having difficulty learning to operate their systems. That number dropped to 52 percent for owners ages 45 to 64, and to 37 percent for drivers between 18 and 44.

Overall, owner satisfaction with the systems is relatively low compared with other satisfaction surveys we've conducted. Among Honda owners, only 61 percent were highly satisfied with their car's infotainment system. Similarly, only 56 and 52 percent were highly satisfied with the Cadillac and Ford/Lincoln systems, respectively.


A whopping 37 percent of the people who are the most tech savvy hate the infotainment systems in their cars? You don't say!

I deal with the same issues all the time. Since my job involves testing new cars, it also means learning to use new infotainment systems, and I can tell you that most of them range from Not Too Shabby (Chrysler Uconnect) to You Have Got To Be Kidding Me (MyFordTouch). Lag, confusing menu layouts, and at worst, distractions from the road are the biggest problems I encounter. They try too hard to do what your smartphone already does, except not nearly as well.

I truly feel that one day we will look back on the infotainment systems of the 2010s the same way we look at digital dashboards from the 1980s: an interesting experiment, but a pain in the ass we won't miss much.

I don't know what the answer is, but I like where Apple is going with CarPlay. Say what you want about Apple or their rabid fan base, but they're typically pretty excellent at user interfaces. If CarPlay proves to be fast, reliable, good at working with a phone, and it has a strong enough voice interface that it can prevent on-road distractions, it may be the way to go.


In the meantime, the rest of us will have to deal with hanging menus, voice systems that seem predisposed to calling your ex-girlfriend instead of your boss, and dialing in long, complicated addresses into the nav with a rotating knob.


Photo: Ferrari