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Drivers Don't Use Half of the High-Tech Features Offered in Cars, Study Shows

This story originally appeared on CNBC

As automakers race to add the latest technologies to vehicles, a new study has found that most drivers aren't using these high-tech features in the first place.

According to J.D. Power's Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, released Tuesday, 1 out of every 5 new vehicle owners has never used half of the 33 technology features measured by the annual survey.

"The first 30 days are critical," said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction at J.D. Power. "That first-time experience with the technology is the make-it or break-it stage."

There are a few reasons why these technologies have not been widely adopted, Kolodge said. In many cases, new vehicle owners said they did not find certain features useful, or indicated the technology came as part of package of options they didn't want.

In other cases, the use of new technologies has been limited because dealers do not fully explain how to operate certain features when owners buy a new car or truck.

"Automakers also need to explain the technology to dealership staff and train them on how to demonstrate it to owners," Kolodge said.

The report serves as additional evidence that automakers and suppliers are still searching for the right menu of new technology to offer car and truck buyers.

Finding the right balance is crucial, as these features are a primary reason why the average transaction price (what's paid at dealerships) for new vehicles has steadily climbed in recent years. In July, that number sat at $31,691, according to TrueCar. That compares to $29,882 in July 2011.

Blind spot warning and detection and fuel economy indicators topped the list as the most-desired technologies that drivers want on their next vehicle, according to the report.

Top technologies wanted on next vehicle

Blind spot warning and detection: 87 percent

Fuel economy indicator: 87 percent

Seat lumbar adjustment: 86 percent

Phone pairing system: 84 percent

Park assist: 82 percent

Source: J.D. Power

On the flipside, the survey shows that car and truck buyers have become so accustomed to using their mobile phones for navigation and streaming music that they would rather stick with those devices than transition to in-car infotainment systems.

"In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they're familiar with the device and it's accurate," Kolodge said.

Top technologies not wanted on next vehicle

Rear seat entertainment: 58 percent

Massaging seats: 47 percent

In-vehicle concierge: 44 percent

Automatic parking system: 39 percent

Android Auto: 38 percent

Apple CarPlay: 37 percent

Source: J.D. Power

It's important to note that although in-car infotainment systems such as Apple CarPlay or Google's Android Auto may not rank high, the systems are still relatively new and only offered in a limited number of vehicles.

The latest DrIVE report is based on the responses of more than 4,200 vehicle owners after 90 days of ownership. The survey was conducted between April and June of this year.

Phil LeBeau

Written By

Phil LeBeau is an auto and airline industry reporter at CNBC.