Mobility Disruptors | Futuristic TV Cars Becoming Reality

August 29, 2018

By Ruopei Wang

My father is not a big fan of American TV, but he remains deeply impressed by a show he watched decades ago called “Knight Rider.” Famous for its action-oriented plot—and David Hasselhoff—the television series made its way to China in 1995, 13 years after it debuted in the United States. Needing little introduction, Michael Knight’s car, KITT, became my father’s dream car due to futuristic features like a voice synthesizer, automated driving capability and micro-scanners.

Thanks to technology innovations by automakers and suppliers, vehicles nowadays can provide entertainment, information, driving assistance, collision protection and connectivity systems that are safe, reliable, comfortable and efficient. As anticipated, my father equips his car with quite a few of those new technologies trying to build his own KITT!

However, he is disappointed that many of the features are not as simple and intuitive to use as he expected. For example, he didn’t understand how to use the vehicle smartphone app to remotely control various functions of the vehicle. He rarely uses the voice recognition system because the vehicle can’t understand his instructions most of the time. Not to mention, he never uses built-in apps. Ultimately, he is encountering lost value from underutilization of technology driven by his hindered experience.

This is not a special case if we look at a recent pulse survey jointly conducted by J.D. Power and BitAuto regarding Chinese consumers’ experience, expectation and preference for in-vehicle technologies. The survey finds that consumers are reluctant to use some of the in-vehicle technologies for various reasons. They may have another device that better performs the same function (46%); do not want to incur further costs to use (32%); do not need it (28%); and do not know how to use it (27%). 

 Reasons for not using in-vehicle technology features—China


Missing media item.

The survey looked at three categories of common in-vehicle technologies: entertainment and connectivity; comfort and convenience; and driving assistance/navigation. Useful and easy-to-use technologies are the most frequently used and are well received by customers. For example, more than half (52%) of respondents use radio/CD/MP3 frequently, followed by in-vehicle Bluetooth phone/device (48%). Because of the high familiarity, both are considered as “friendly to use” by most users (80%). On the contrary, less than one-fifth of users consider the newly developed and less-known technologies like Smartphone Mirroring Systems, as necessary.

In general, user experience is likely to have a lasting effect on whether an owner wants this same feature on his/her next vehicle. For example, factory-installed navigation systems get lower satisfaction ratings than other driving assistance features. As a result, only 28% of owners want it on their next vehicle.

My father relates to this. He would rather use his cell phone to navigate rather than rely on his own KITT. Without a doubt, one of the main threats to in-vehicle technology is the cell phone. In China, nearly three-fourths of owners prefer to use their cell phones, at least partially, to access in-vehicle services.

Chinese consumers’ preference for accessing in-vehicle services


Missing media item.

Given that a consumer’s technology experience is highly predictive of their future technology desire and brand loyalty, automakers should carefully examine the user experience and provide customers with useful, reliable and valuable features. As always, the consumer will remain the ultimate judge for determining the value of technology and what should be incorporated into their next vehicle.

As for my father, he will continue his pursuit of recreating KITT in his personal vehicle and will try new advanced in-vehicle technology so long as it is affordable, easy to understand and friendly to use.


Ruopei Wang is a marketing professional at J.D. Power Asia Pacific Operations. Falling into Generation Y, she is interested in trying advanced technologies in vehicles.

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