Less Technology Is Giving Drivers Fewer Headaches

One would think that technological advancement always results in greater benefits – right? It turns out that it’s not the case for vehicles. Research by J.D. Power Study revealed that mainstream brands such as Honda, Toyota, and Ford are easier for drivers to use. The study involved 29,487 participants, all original owners of 2019 model-year cars. The researchers discovered that the infotainment systems were singlehandedly the largest source of problems reported by the car owners. 

The Trends: Mainstream vs. Luxury

red person with keyfob of red Ferrari supercar

Long-term dependability is crucial, with many owners holding on to their vehicles for more extended periods. The study revealed the significant gap between the best and worst brands. Kia owners reported about 145 problems for every 100 cars included in the survey, translating to 145 PP100. The bottom-ranked Land Rover had almost twice the reported complaints by Kia, with 284 PP100. 

The average for vehicles covered in the 2022 vehicle dependability study was 192 problems for every 100 cars. It was shocking to see mainstream car companies like Toyota, Chevrolet, and Kia outscoring luxury cars like Lexus, Mercedes Benz, and Cadillac by an average of 190 vs. 204 PP100. 

The leading reason for this trend is the digital technology they use. Automobile manufacturers are always in a rush to improve the systems. However, some are doing much better than others at ensuring that the vehicle’s mechanical, interior, and exterior don’t cause any problems to the drivers. 

From the review, infotainment was the most problematic feature. That has encouraged car companies like Land Rover to roll out new infotainment platforms with a simplified screen menu xvideo, easier pairing with mobile devices, and hands-free operation. 

Another key finding is that Japanese automobile manufacturers have lost their reliability and quality significantly. While Toyota was the fifth in the power study and Lexus was the sixth, many familiar Japanese brands like Nissan and Honda were below average. 

Korean cars, which have been perceived to have lasting quality for several years, grabbed three of the top four positions. General Motors, which also struggled with a reputation for poor quality over the decades, led the study by ranking second. 

Finding a Balance 

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Although vehicle owners still experience conventional mechanical issues like faulty engines and transmissions, they are far less common than a decade ago. Today’s digital technology carries a higher likelihood of failure. 

Built-in voice recognition systems were a leading concern in the research. Infotainment systems were the most significant cause of consumer complaints. However, issues with Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, and Android Auto also carried the day regarding the number of complaints. 

Car manufacturers now need to find a balance. Although users want more high-tech features, they also care for safety and ease of use. Therefore, it’s essential to find innovations that balance wants and needs. 

Moving forward, manufacturers need to consider solutions such as Amodeo notes and smartphone-style over-the-air updates. While these innovations may not necessarily eradicate the issues, they will offer automakers new ways of sending updates without requiring the consumer to visit the dealerships.

Speech recognition heads to portable media players

The structure of applications follows the type of user interface used. The first interactive apps in PC-DOS days were text-based console apps. An application would ask the user a set of questions, one at a time, ending with the ubiquitous Are you sure? Y/N. A poor user who mis-typed an item would press N, and have to fill in the list all over again.

GUIs gave the initiative to the users, who could fill in (or not) fields in any order. Validation could occur on each item as it was entered. A big step forward, if you had a PC handy.
VUIs (voice user interfaces) are a whole different animal. In a VUI you must activate the grammar before you ask the question. It must contain all the possible answers. This complicates the user interface because some data values are open-ended. Consider getting a mailing address from the user.

The State is easy; there is a fixed set of them. Zip code is more open-ended but there is still an underlying pattern (5 digit number in the US, AlphaNumAlpha-NumAlphaNum in Canada) that can be used to create a grammar.

Street addresses are completely open-ended. It has, if you’ll pardon the pun, a large address space.

Heres a sampling:
1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave is the longest street in Albuquerque
2. Ho Road in Carefree, AZ meets Hum Rd at the corner of Ho and Hum pic
3. Akaaka Street is in Oahu
4. not to mention the dreaded Welsh names like Gwernymynydd
The only feasible approach for getting a street address is divide-and-conquer. Ask the zip code first and then, using census data, have grammars for every zip code. Suddenly, your simple feature of getting the callers address requires determining every street name in the country! As discussed before, this is a perfect job for third-party speech objects.

The structure of speech application code reflects this issue. Much of the validation code of GUIs now becomes grammar generation code that runs at the start of the dialog. When the speech dialog ends, theres not much validation to do since the user was picking from lists that we generated. Of course, dynamic grammar generation creates problems its own: caching and avoiding unnecessary grammar reloads.

Apps that do well in an everything is a listbox world are ones that already know about the user. Existing customers call in, enter an account number, and the app already knows their phone numbers, address, GPS co-ordinates.

Two US firms have outlined ambitious plans to enable users to talk to their digital media players instructing them what they want to hear next.

Music library firm Gracenote has teamed up with Scansoft to offer a control system that hopes to give people hands-free access to their digital music collection on the move and make the need for thumbs a thing of the past.

“Voice command-and-control unlocks the potential of devices that can store large digital music collections,” said Ross Blanchard, vice president of business development for Gracenote.

“These applications will radically change the car entertainment experience, allowing drivers to enjoy their entire music collections without ever taking their hands off the steering wheel,” he added.

If the Gracenote name sounds familiar its because it currently provides music library information and ID3 tagging for millions of different albums for music download services such as Apple’s iTunes and Windows Media Player.

“Speech is a natural fit for today’s consumer devices, particularly in mobile environments, and the increasing portability of large libraries of music and video files make speech a necessary interface for safety and convenience for entertainment devices,” stated Alan Schwartz, vice president of SpeechWorks, a division of ScanSoft.
“Pairing our voice technologies with Gracenote’s vast music and video database will bring the benefits of speech technologies to a host of consumer devices and enable people to access their media in ways they’ve never imagined.”

Targeted products include car entertainment, portable media players and home entertainment devices such as media servers. The companies estimate that fully-integrated porno mexicano solutions for hardware and software platforms will be available in the fourth quarter of 2005.

However the companies have not commented on which players will be using the new software.

Hubbub Overview

Hubbub is a wireless and desktop application that supports awareness and very lightweight communication among people who are distributed and/or on the go. It runs on a Palm V connected to the network via modem and on a PC desktop. Hubbub makes extensive use of sounds to enable people to hear (as well as see) when other people become active or idle on their computers or Palms. This gives them a background level of awareness of who’s doing what and when someone might be available for an interaction. Hubbub also lets people send text instant messages to each other between Palms and/or desktops. And it supports a novel concept of “Sound Instant Messages,” short “earcons,” or strings of notes, with simple meanings that help people coordinate or simply keep them in touch. Examples of such messages are “hi,” “Want to go to lunch?” or “Ready to a video?” Sounds are also used to identify people; everyone chooses a “Sound ID,” which accompanies both awareness information and sound messages. This lets people simply hear that “Bonnie says hello” or “Bonnie just became active on her work computer,” without having to look at the device.

This specification is a detailed description of the user interface design for version 1. Ideas for version 2 are noted, but are meant to indicate a direction and not a full design. This document will continue to be updated as the design evolves; each page of the document indicates the date on which it was most recently updated.