With the increasing reliance of drivers upon modern infotainment systems, the computerised systems are meant to improve convenience, though the most recent owner satisfaction survey conducted by Consumer Reports suggests that there’s plenty of room for improvement. Out of data collected from more than 60,000 vehicles, only 56% of owners reported being very satisfied with their infotainment systems.

Topping the chart was Tesla with their In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system with an 86% owner satisfaction rate, while at the other end of the scale was Lexus with its Remote Touchpad, scoring a 46% satisfaction rate. Meanwhile, other automakers which scored well in the survey included BMW (80%), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (72%), Porsche (69%), Volkswagen (68%) and Audi (68%).

“A good system is one that’s easy to learn and easy to use every day. It should be responsive, not sluggish, and have straightforward controls that are easy to identify and operate,” said programme manager for vehicle usability and automation at Consumer Reports Kelly Funkhouser.

First, the plus points from Consumer Reports members. An owner of a 2017 Ford Explorer describes the Sync 3 system in his 2017 Ford Explorer as very reliable and intuitive, while a Genesis G90 owner said that the system in this car offers the information required without being intrusive or distracting.

On the flip side, complaints about infotainment systems were mostly from drivers required to take their eyes off the road. Many of the low-rated systems use multiple screens, Consumer Reports said, such as certain versions of Honda’s HondaLink system or Jaguar Land Rover’s Touch Pro Duo, which divide functions across two displays.

Consumer Reports members reported annoyance with trackpad-based systems such as the Remote Touchpad in Lexus models, described by one as “impossible to use accurately while driving,” while another said it was hard to use without taking eyes off the road.

Another common complaint was sub-standard voice recognition systems, as having to repeat a command more than once because the system cannot recognise the user’s voice greatly increases the risk of cognitive distraction, Funkhouser said.

Smartphone-enabled systems such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have perhaps been the biggest development in infotainment systems over the last five years, says Consumer Reports, where the systems control device-based phone, text, navigation and audio systems via the vehicle’s built-in screen, designed with simplified interfaces to reduce driver distractions with icons already familiar from phones.

Fortunately, in terms of distraction, certain functions are limited from driver access, such as scrolling through a Facebook news feed, which is disallowed on Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Between the operating systems, surveyed members reported slightly higher satisfaction with Apple CarPlay-compatible systems for making phone calls and using navigation functions, compared to Android Auto and in-built systems.

Apple CarPlay charted 64% satisfaction, Android Auto recorded 59%, while in-built systems recorded 58% satisfaction. While the mobile device-based systems scored slightly higher than built-in systems, they weren’t infallible, said Consumer Reports. Some surveyed members reported intermittent freezing and lag, as well as difficulty switching between Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and built-in systems, such as for AM/FM radio.