More pitfalls emerging for too much vehicle technology

As President Reagan once said: “There you go again.”

Yes, here I go again. I am observing the pitfalls of in-vehicle technology -- and I’m not alone.

A recent study by J.D. Power and Associates shows that many motorists are frustrated with their vehicles’ built-in navigation systems. On average, owners of factory-installed navigation systems this year reported about 3.5 problems per unit. Among the problems: being unable to find an address and having trouble getting the voice recognition controls to work.

What particularly irks drivers? Systems that try to combine navigation with entertainment, climate control and other features, according to the study.

I am convinced that beyond the technical or operating problems, these systems contribute to distracted driving. I’m not alone there, either. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made this a top priority for government safety regulators for much of the past year.

These systems are intended to eliminate distraction through voice commands that help drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road. But when the voice recognition controls fail, then what?

Drivers must use a series of touch-screen commands. That often means taking their eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel to do something that should be simple, such as adjusting the temperature, for example.

Many consumers have clamored for more technology. And I’m sure some car owners love their built-in navigation systems. But enough motorists are finding problems with these systems to make me question whether the industry has made the systems intuitive and reliable enough for use.

After all, that additional two or three seconds it takes to turn off the seat-heater with these systems could be enough of a distraction to rear-end someone.

And then there’s the effort and cost to repair system problems.

Meanwhile, the original touch system -- a button and a knob -- came with none of these problems.

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