In connected cars, Audio dominates the dashboard
Have you gotten behind the wheel of a new car lately? If not, you’re in for a surprise. Gone is the bumpy landscape of dashboard buttons and knobs. Instead, you’ll find a smooth screen offering a fully integrated and connected infotainment center, capable of video as well as Audio. This “connected car” started with electric vehicles, and now it’s common in gas-powered cars and trucks too.
We were curious about the connected car–how people use it, what they are demanding from it, and what we can expect as it continues to evolve. So we put together a custom survey and spoke with 3,000 people between 2021 and 2023. Here’s what we learned.
Audio is still #1
With so many features available in the new dashboard of a connected car, 60% of users are still using the dashboard to control Audio content–that’s more than they use it to make calls, access the voice assistant, send messages, or even navigate.
That Audio experience is shaped by their constant companion, the phone. They listen to personal music libraries (80%), they use Bluetooth or other aux input systems (75%), they hook into Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (60%), and they use apps to listen to AM/FM radio (20%), often to keep up with the news and sports from faraway hometowns. That’s in addition to the 62% who listen to AM/FM radio through over-the-air tuning.
Keep it safe and simple – stay in touch
Regardless of how fun and technologically advanced these cars are, drivers want safe and simple dashboard systems. While it might seem that voice commands are the answer, that’s not the case at all. People like to interact with their connected cars by tapping on the dashboard, or maybe the steering wheel–especially when controlling Audio, and we’re seeing a 6% growth in that preference.
Really, it makes sense. When you’re driving, you can’t look at a screen. When you’re blindly tapping a tablet-type screen, you’re unlikely to hit the mark. But you can touch a physical button without even looking, and immediately get the tactile feedback that it worked. Auto makers are starting to listen, and we’re seeing those two buttons–one for volume, one for tuning–returning to some connected car systems.
A full 75% of connected car users also value ease of access to features such as syncing a phone or using the remote start. They get frustrated with confusing proprietary systems, and we found a 7% year-over-year growth in drivers who are prioritizing ease of use in their next connected car system.
AM radio powers through
You probably heard the news (maybe on your favorite AM radio station!). When Ford recently joined several other major automotive manufacturers in removing AM radio from electric vehicles, Americans pushed back–hard enough that Ford reversed course and is once again including AM radio in all its cars and trucks.
AM radio isn’t just for content. It’s potentially a lifesaver. Natural and man-made disasters can take down broadcast towers. But AM radio travels far, and really far at night. You can pick up AM stations hundreds sometimes thousands of miles away. That means that if something disables your local broadcast towers, you can still get information. After we shared that fact with our survey respondents, 70% said that AM radio access in cars is important.
Interestingly, that demand for AM radio in cars still held true for people under age 35. When they learned about the broader reach of AM radio waves in an emergency, 60% said AM radio access is important, and 40% wouldn’t even consider a car without AM radio.
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Audacy Connected Car Study via Suzy Insights, Wave 3 March 2023, N=1,025 P18+