Drivers Would Pay Up to $1,499 for Added Tech, Study Says

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Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle
The interior of a Toyota Motor Corp. Mirai FCV (fuel cell vehicle) is displayed during a press conference during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Jan. 5, 2015. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A majority of U.S. drivers are willing to pay as much as $1,499 to have high-tech entertainment and safety devices in their vehicles as consumers demand more connectivity, according to a Harris Poll.

Back-up cameras, USB ports and smartphone charging are among the top desires, according to the online survey of 1,033 vehicle owners done for researcher AutoTrader.com. About 55 percent said music streaming services such as those of Pandora Media Inc. and Spotify Ltd. make driving more enjoyable.

Advanced auto technologies will be on display at the Consumer Electronics Show opening in Las Vegas today, including self-driving cars, dashboards covered in curved touch screens and vehicles controlled by smartwatches. Automakers and suppliers are seeking a piece of the $11.3 billion in factory-installed technologies going into cars this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

“Consumer electronics are quickly becoming a spectacle in the automotive industry,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst for AutoTrader, said in a statement. “Consumers are spending more time and money on car technology and they are particular about what they’re buying.”

If automakers come up with smart technology that’s easy to use, 51 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay as much as $1,499 for it. Half also said they would wait about a year to get a car with the advanced features they want.

Selling Point

In-vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39 percent of auto buyers, compared with the 14 percent who care most about horsepower and handling, according to a survey from consulting firm Accenture Plc. Internet-connected cars worldwide will grow more than fourfold to 152 million by 2020 from 36 million now, according to researcher IHS Automotive.

The AutoTrader survey, conducted in October, also found that while only 3 percent of vehicle owners have Wi-Fi in their cars, almost two-thirds of those use it daily. About 48 percent of respondents expressed a desire for in-vehicle Wi-Fi. And 52 percent said automakers should invest to improve information and entertainment systems, rather than rely on better integrating smartphone functions into dashboard touch screens.

“We’re in the information era and shoppers are informed and they are adamant about the features they want,” Krebs said. “From manufacturers to suppliers and even aftermarket consumer electronics companies, this study shows us that there is still plenty of opportunity in the vehicle electronics market.”

BMW AG demonstrated the next version of its iDrive infotainment system, where controls can be managed with hand gestures.

To control the volume of the stereo, a driver simply makes a circle with his index finger in thin air and the sound gets louder or quieter. If a phone call comes in, pointing at the dashboard screen answers it or waving your hand makes it go into voice mail. Two fingers pointed at the screen can direct the car to navigate to your home. These features are coming in one to two years, BMW said.

“We’re not here in order to show stuff coming in five to 10 years,” Hildegard Wortmann, head of product management for BMW, said in an interview. “Gesture recognition is something that’s very valid.”

Qualcomm Concepts

Qualcomm Inc. showed high-speed Internet access technology in a 2015 Maserati Quattroporte GTS and a 2015 Cadillac XTS. The concept cars, using Qualcomm’s latest processors, demonstrate how services found on smartphones and tablets are making their way into vehicles.

The Cadillac concept uses Google Inc.’s Android operating system in dashboard touch screens with graphics that display navigation, music and live streaming of sports, news and entertainment. The Maserati concept has BlackBerry Ltd.’s QNX operating system in rear-seat entertainment systems with touch screens that have tablet-like swipe-and-pinch controls and voice recognition, Qualcomm said in a statement.

FCA US, formerly Chrysler Group, said it’s adding services on its Uconnect dashboard infotainment system that help drivers find a car in a parking lot, provide navigation destinations to vehicles remotely and automatically send e-mails on a car or truck’s mechanical health. FCA said it also redesigned the Uconnect Access app to make it function faster and more intuitively.

Record Exhibitors

A record 10 automakers are showing their wares at CES on an exhibit space the size of three football fields. Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields and Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche will deliver keynote speeches at the convention.

The amount of exhibit space at CES dedicated to vehicle technologies has almost doubled during the last five years to 165,000 square feet (15,000 square meters), according to Tara Dunion, a spokeswoman for the show.

Almost one-third of U.S. households now own a vehicle that has an electronic infotainment system, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

Download: AUDIO: Bloomberg’s Naughton on Auto Electronics at CES

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