Car connectivity creating driver concern

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A recent survey by The Harris Poll firm revealed an interesting feeling taking hold among four-wheelers concerning the rampant rise of “connectivity” technology within their vehicles, with three out of four car owners (76%) in the poll saying that in-car connectivity technologies are too distracting and even dangerous to have.

In addition, more than half (55%) of those surveyed argue that automakers have taken technology for road use too far.

“The fear of technology distraction seems to outweigh the other perceived benefits of having in-car connectivity options,” noted Mike Chadsey, VP and automotive solutions consultant for Harris Interactive, one of the polling firm’s divisions.

[Here’s an example of the many forms such vehicle “connectivity” technology can take.]

“Car makers should take note: depending on the generation of their target market, in-car connectivity can have influence on the buying decision, but too much of a good thing may just be too much,” he explained.

“Ultimately, when it comes to marrying technology with their car, consumers want it to be both safe and in a way that they can control,” Chadsey added. “Americans may be addicted to their technology but they also love the freedom represented by their automobile and are not ready to have anything interfere with their driving experience.”

In-car technology, by the way, is a “catch all” phrase that includes everything from mobile device connection ports to the Internet, navigation systems, emergency response systems, and driving habit monitoring devices.

Harris Interactive surveyed some 2,634 U.S. adults aged 18 and over online, of whom 1,991 own or lease a car, truck, minivan or SUV, between May 7 and May 15 as part of research for the 2012 Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST study.

Beyond fearing how connectivity technology could affect driver focus, a strong majority of car owners (62%) in the Harris poll also worried about how technology might interfere with their privacy, including where and how they drive. Just over two in five U.S. car owners (41%) believe that their insurance rates could increase because of what in-car technology reveals about their driving habits: a concern more prevalent among younger drivers between 18 and 35 (46%) and men (46%).

[Here’s an example of the different kinds of “driver monitoring” systems being explored, using English in the subtitles.]

American car owners are, however, conflicted when it comes to technology and their cars, the poll discerned. While three in five (61%) view their car as a haven from the outside world and thus don't want to always be connected while driving, more than half of car owners find that in-car connectivity makes driving more enjoyable (58%) and makes them feel safer (57%) while on the road. 

The trend of embracing in-car technology is also clearly generational, the Harris survey found, with the Baby Boomer generation regarding connectivity as one of the least important functions of a vehicle.

Only 39% of car owners 50 to 66 think in-car connectivity is important compared to 58% of those who are between 18 and 35, the poll determined. When it comes to new car purchase decisions, two in three car owners between the ages of 18 and 35 (66%) say that the vehicle's technology has some or a great deal of influence on the next car they choose – a number that plummets to just 46% for those between the ages of 50 and 66.

Yet safety systems are one family of “connectivity” vehicle products that remains highly popular. According to Harris’ research, technologies such as back-up cameras, blind spot warning systems and pedestrian sensors that have seen the most interest in the past year, compared to entertainment and connectivity technologies. 

[Here’s a funny video Ford Motor Co. produced for the European market to highlight the safety value of its SYNC connectivity system.]

For those new car buyers interested in entertainment and connectivity technologies, 24% state that they would consider the option of docking their smart phone in their vehicle compared to just 14% who would consider having their entertainment applications built-in, Harris found.

Interesting data to consider as the debate over vehicle connectivity technology only continues to deepen. 

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