Apple CarPlay (pictured) and Google’s Android Auto are gaining rapidly in popularity (Photo: Volvo Cars)

Automakers are having a tough time competing with the mobile phone industry when it comes to in-car infotainment. According to a new study by market researchers J.D. Power, consumers generally prefer the in-car infotainment options available through connected smartphones over the embedded offerings provided by the automakers themselves.

J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) study found that the rate of adoption of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is growing rapidly, with most consumers considering the software a must-have in their new cars. By contrast, new-vehicle owners are much less eager to buy the options available from the car companies.

“This rapid adoption of smartphone mirroring is the unavoidable outcome of consumers thinking that automakers are being outperformed by smartphone software providers in certain areas,” said Kristin Kolodge, a J.D. Power researcher specialized in driver interaction and HMI.

In a statement, Kolodge said new-car owners consider phone systems better for navigation and voice recognition. A major factor is that the services are free. “Better and free are hard to compete with,” she said.

The J.D. Power researcher recommended automakers to focus on areas such as driver assistance and collision avoidance, where they can be the exclusive providers. “Automakers need to be very clear where they can win,” Kolodge said. “The smart option in some areas may be to offer the best integration, not the least bad alternative.”

The study found that 19 percent of new-vehicle owners don’t use the factory-installed navigation in their cars, while 70 percent use another device, which is almost always a smartphone.

Usage of in-car driver assistance varies widely from one brand to the next. According to the study, the range of usage for lane-keeping lies between 46 percent and 67 percent. For adaptive cruise control, it is between 16 and 42 percent and for voice recognition between 10 percent and 29 percent.

Said Kolodge: “Consumers are challenging the level of usefulness that some automotive technology provides, including whether it’s needed at all.”

J.D. Power’s TXI study measures owners’ experiences, usage and interaction with 38 driver-centric vehicle technologies at 90 days of ownership. For the 2018 report, the researchers polled nearly 20,000 vehicle owners and lessees.

-By Arjen Bongard