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Many people don't bother using in-car technology, survey says

Technically Incorrect: At least 20 percent of drivers say they've never used more than half the tech features in their cars, according to new market research.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


A concept command center in a Cadillac. Do people actually like to fiddle with these things? Roger Cheng/CNET

You're on a test-drive.

You care most about the way the car feels and smells. You care most about how it accelerates and whether the seats are comfortable.

Meanwhile, the salesperson is busily trying to show you the fourth button from the right somewhere over there. This fine button warns you if there's a kitten you might be in danger of running over. It even tells you what kind of kitten it is.

There are, of course, some people who adore every button in their car and want to intimately commune with each one.

However, a new survey by market researcher J.D. Power has a blessedly ominous headline: "Automakers Spending Billions on Technologies That Many Consumers Don't Use."

The J.D. Power 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report offers that at least 20 percent of drivers haven't used 16 of the 33 tech features the survey measured.

Also, 43 percent said they've never used their in-car concierge. And 38 percent had never touched their mobile routers. The there's the 35 percent who've never used their automated parking systems.

Worse, the respondents even declared themselves positively against such new ideas as Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Millennials were even more prone to eschew the very idea of new in-car tech.

It's easy, of course, to say you don't like something before you've tried it. But if a lot of customers' penchant is never to try things, then perhaps automakers and their sister tech companies have a problem.

The survey was conducted between April and June. It sought responses from 4,200 drivers who'd bought their cars within the previous 90 days. J.D. Power insists that this 90-day period is the time when you either try your new tech or you may never, ever use it.

Of course, one of the difficulties for automakers is that people are already bringing their own personal tech into cars to distract themselves. They text as they drive and they scan Facebook. Having even more tech may feel like overkill to some.

Moreover, how great are the incremental benefits of in-car tech? Isn't the fundamental pleasure of driving the actual driving part? Don't we love feeling comfortable and able to accelerate away in the manner we please?

This, naturally, will be taken away by self-driving cars. They will do everything for you -- not according to your predilections necessarily, but according to those of the wider system.

There are other barriers to the use of in-car tech that are highlighted by this survey. If the dealer doesn't explain it in advance, it's less likely to be used. However, something as basic as the feature not being turned on when the driver takes delivery of the car also influences whether it will ever be used.

This all might remind some of smartphones. Some manufacturers believed they should be crammed with every possible feature. Others thought it was better to have them look attractive and be simple to operate.

It seems that some in the in-car tech world haven't plumped for simplicity yet.