The 2014 Harris AutoTECHCAST study found that automakers are missing the mark when it comes to in-car technology and connectivity. Researchers asked nearly 14,000 in-market car shoppers currently driving a 2009 or older model vehicle what they thought about various new technologies, such as voice activated controls and Internet connectivity. The results were rather surprising.
Only 41 percent of those surveyed said they had heard of connected car technologies and had experience with it. Forty-four percent said they had heard of connectivity technology, but weren't familiar with it. The remaining 15 percent had never heard of or experienced in-car connectivity.
Thirty-one percent said they had no interest in owning a connected car in the future.
"Given America's reverence for technology, and the fact 10 million connected vehicles were sold in 2013, representing more than half of all cars sold in the US, it is surprising so little is known about Connected Car technology," said Ian Beavis, Executive Vice President, Global Automotive at Nielsen in the study's press release.
The report pointed to new marketing techniques and education as the best way to turn public opinion around on tech-savvy cars. But there may be an even bigger problem lurking than lack of awareness: concern for privacy and safety. Of those who responded to the survey, 65 percent said they feared that owning a connected car could compromise their privacy.
Their concern is understandable. The more connected a car is, the more vulnerable it is to hackers. Security experts Dr. Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek released a detailed 92-page report at this year's Black Hat security conference entitled A Survey of Remote Automotive Attack Surfaces, which examines the security of new cars' networks. They found that the more complex a car's system became, the more opportunities hackers had to exploit weaknesses, allowing them to access driver information, or even take control of certain aspects of the car.
"The most hackable cars had the most [computerized] features and were all on the same network and could all talk to each other," Miller told Dark Readings. "The least hackable ones had [fewer] features, and [the features] were segmented, so the radio couldn't talk to the brakes."
New car tech can be a source of confusion rather than convenience for buyers. Consumer Reports regularly trashes automakers' in-car connectivity as being too complicated. A study from the automotive market research firm SBD asked 46 car owners to complete simple tasks using newer infotainment systems. Drivers spent 60 percent of the time scrolling through unused apps and confusing menus. A similar study done at the Telematic Detroit Conference found that of the 173 apps made available to American drivers in the last few years, consumers overwhelming chose just two, Internet access and music.
Connected cars are only going to become even more so, despite consumer misgivings. The U.S. Department of Transportation is inching closer to mandating vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology in all new cars. V2V would enable cars to talk to each other using radio signals to help reduce collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the data would only be used for safety purposes, however, most states do not have laws regarding how long such information is stored, who can gather it or who has access to it.