Consumer Reports is a no-holds-barred kind of magazine. That’s why when Liza Barth, associate writer for autos, joined me on The Peggy Smedley Show to talk about the world of connected cars I knew she wouldn’t disappoint. You have to admire a writer that speaks her mind about what she sees and doesn’t hesitate sharing her thoughts with hundreds of thousands of listeners.
We all agree that driver distraction is an epidemic in this country. But Barth goes a step farther stating some car companies have added to the distraction. She says both MyFord Touch and the Cadillac CUE are both very distracting. She’s not afraid to point out that MyFord Touch has been improved in its second go around, but it’s still cumbersome and not easy to use, and requires a variety of buttons and steps.
On the other hand, she not was thrashing all connectivity in vehicles. She gives a thumbs-up to Chrysler and its uConnect, saying it is simple and easy to use with knobs for frequently used tasks. In her view, knobs should be used for everyday features in the car, such as changing a radio station or changing the climate. Other car companies like BMW and Audi scored well in this area as well.
Generally, she says, motorists try not to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds. But for some of the tasks in today’s connected cars you’re distracted for much longer than that. As a result, Barth points out that automakers are stuck between trying to live up to consumer demand (i.e., smartphone integration), and making sure their automobiles are safe. Some connected features are helpful, such as navigation features and the ability to stream music seamlessly and automatically. She too agrees that fidelity in voice control would be optimal, but it’s just not there yet.
Despite all the advances and distractions on the dashboard, Barth says cars are safer than they’ve ever been. Crash avoidance technologies and the like are steps in the right direction, though some are better than others. So this technology can be helpful in terms of helping drivers stay aware of what’s around them. The key to all of the technology is helping young and old maximize their experience. Now that’s the biggest challenge of all.