New vehicles likely have these high-tech systems and even cars and trucks dating back a decade or more often include some of the functions. Auto owners enjoy the offerings but may be upset with overall performance. Whatever the case, automotive multimedia providing sound, navigation, communications and safety features isn't going anywhere.

A sign of such technology being here to stay is that researchers and consulting groups grade the systems for how well they work and how much people like them.

"In-car multimedia technology is perennially the leading source of complaints among new-vehicle owners, and it's still a sore spot for customer satisfaction — but things are improving," notes a marketing manager on behalf of the J.D. Power 2018 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study released earlier this fall.

For instance, the number of reported problems with in-car audio, communication, entertainment and navigation technologies has decreased for a third year in a row, J.D. Power points out, adding that "several technology standouts (are) emerging among manufacturers."

Figures for the Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study are derived from each year's J.D. Power Vehicle Quality Survey, the company said. J.D. Power also includes "supplier sourcing information" when it's available. That provides "a comprehensive view of the overall multimedia industry, as well as the performance of individual products and systems, and problems that owners experience," according to the consulting firm.

J.D. Power listed top performers by segment for 2018, including:

  • Small Mass Market: Kia Rio
  • Compact Mass Market: Kia Forte
  • Midsize Mass Market: Ford Mustang
  • Large Mass Market: Ford Taurus
  • Small Premium: BMW 2 Series
  • Midsize Premium: Lincoln Continental
  • Large Premium: BMW 7 Series

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The new quality report on automotive multimedia comes as car companies boost their exposure and increase marketing of techy devices.

Bamboo Apps high-tech website explained how "connected cars stole the show" this spring at the Mobile World Congress 2018. According to published accounts, the event is considered the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry.

"The 'hot' label at MWC has variously switched in different years from mobile apps and gadgets to niche categories such as the Internet of Things, but this year automobiles stole the show," the online site said.

At least a half-dozen space-age technologies stood out, including the Mercedes-Benz MBUX smart multimedia system. Its artificial intelligence entertainment platform can display video images of the surroundings that include "helpful navigation information" such as street name and house number. The carmaker is also working with language-tech company Nuance so that voice controls don't require a push-button; just utter the word "Mercedes" to launch navigation, climate control, changing media channels and seat adjustment features, Bamboo Apps noted.

An autonomous version of the BMW i3 electric vehicle includes a feature to summon the car by phone, for the driver to plug in a destination and be guided there without assistance and a digital key that permits starting the car with a smartphone.

Meanwhile, Toyota showed off its SmartDeviceLink that allows motorists to manage smartphone apps using display screens, buttons and voice recognition. Spanish automaker SEAT revealed its Leon Cristobal concept car with at least 15 safety aides to reduce traffic accidents by helping to limit distractions, drowsiness, excess speed and alcohol consumption, Bamboo Apps said.

Continental auto supplier rolled out the Predictive Connectivity Manager to determine a driver’s "most probable path through continuous analysis of the vehicle’s pre-calculated route" and information from vehicles traveling the same way.

SAP tech company unveiled a connected car featuring a FIAT 124 Spider Abarth roadster that provided an intelligent, automated experience from car rental to parking. And Huawei and Porsche teamed up for a "smartphone driven car demo" with a Porsche Panamera, dashboard smart phone and roof camera that permitted the driverless vehicle to detect and maneuver around objects.

"We saw (at the Mobile World Congrees) that tremendous advances in technology are about to revolutionize the automotive industry," Bamboo Apps said.