5 On Your Side

Drivers say car infotainment systems are complicated

Posted April 14, 2014

Car radios received getting high-tech upgrades in recent years, but many drivers say the "infotainment systems" replacing them are more hassle than helpful. 

A Consumer Reports survey asked readers about more than a million vehicles and found that more than 60 percent of drivers with the electronic systems said they were tough to use, and a third said one of the system's features, like the navigation system, didn't work properly. The survey showed Cadillac, Ford, Honda and Lincoln had the most complaints about their systems. Audi, BMW, Chrysler, and Lexus had systems that were relatively trouble-free.

"What's odd is that you have a knob down here that controls a screen up here, whereas down here you have the touch screen which doesn't work with the knob, doesn't work with the buttons, and you don't know exactly which one to look at," said Consumer Reports' Deputy Autos Editor Jon Linkov.

But it's not just older drivers having a hard time. 

"More older drivers found the systems complicated to use at first," said Consumer Reports' Donato Vaccaro. "Younger drivers reported the most problems. This may be because they use the systems more."

Consumer Reports warns that the high-tech systems aren't just a fad. Car makers are packing more features than ever into dashboards. 

The magazine says the best way to learn how to successfully use a out a car's infotainment system is to take the time to read the manual. 


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  • boysmom Apr 17, 2014

    Great...just what we need - something else to distract drivers' attention from the actual task of driving.

  • Brian Jenkins Apr 17, 2014

    LOL you have to be smarter than the car. Poor people. Then again the average IQ in America is 90 so not all that surprising.

  • Andy Hairston Apr 16, 2014
    user avatar

    WDC1987-"If you need a class to understand the technology then maybe you're not as tech savy as you think you are."

    Not true. I've done computer programming in several languages, can do a hard drive replacement and OS reinstall in my sleep, can set up VCRs, DVD players, game devices, etc. without a manual - and have to study the car manual pretty carefully to understand some of the options on my radio. (In the newer car, not the easy-to-use tape deck.)

    The point, though, is not that "some people don't understand them", but that the complexity of the newer systems can be a major distraction for the driver. This stuff shouldn't be in the dash!

  • wdc1987 Apr 15, 2014

    BusyB97-"...But when I have to take a class on how to use my radio in the car..."

    If you need a class to understand the technology then maybe you're not as tech savy as you think you are.

    Even if the GUI isn't the most user friendly, computers generally share the basic fundementals and it's fairly intuitive if you use it often enough.

  • busyb97 Apr 15, 2014

    View quoted thread

    It's not about being technologically challenged. I personally am not- I've got the devices like everyone else. But when I have to take a class on how to use my radio in the car, there is a problem. Devices in cars should be SIMPLE- so they are not a distraction. I don't think we need tons of bells and whistles in the dash either. They make laws against using your smartphones while you drive- but now it's in the car dash. So what's the point? Folks will be using their dash interface instead of a smartphone- yep, that will help.

    And those who are happy with the old radios- good luck. My mom just got a new vehicle and it does not come with a CD player. They expect everyone uses an MP3 player I guess. She hates that, but had few options. Eventually, she'll figure out her ipod.

  • Not Now Apr 15, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Actually, Gosh, the last two cars I rented had the owners manuals in them, and yes, I actually read the manuals!

  • Mannin Black Apr 15, 2014
    user avatar

    I know where my knobs are for my radio, heat/air. Keeping it simple. No need to look at any screens.

  • wdc1987 Apr 15, 2014

    It seems the real problem here is that there are too many technologically challenged people that like to complain more than they like to learn.

  • Andy Hairston Apr 15, 2014
    user avatar

    I'm quite happy with my AM/FM/tape deck radio. I can change radio stations, adjust the (very basic) equalizer, adjust volume, etc. all without looking away from the road. I love computers, but touchscreen on the dash? No thanks.

  • Mannin Black Apr 15, 2014
    user avatar

    They pass bans on cellphone use but there are now just as many distractions on the dashboard.