Bumpy road as hi-tech in cars amazes, perplexes
(CBS News) LOS ANGELES -- Hitting the road these days involves a lot more than just hitting the gas.
Vehicles have been remade with all sorts of high tech touches: wireless Internet, voice activated navigation -- even a dashboard concierge that can, among other things, make restaurant reservations.
Motorists can even lock, unlock and start vehicles from an iPad.
"You name it, the car does it; it practically does your dishes," says Wayne Lewis, assistant manager of Sunrise Ford.
Automakers are touting technology to lure new buyers.
Consoles now look like cockpits. Yet, some drivers aren't quite sure they're ready for takeoff.
Steve Freed just bought a 2013 Ford Escape.
But before he can leave the lot, he has to go to tech "class," in which a salesman gives him a technology tutorial.
The car has 10,000 voice commands and can hold info from 10 phones. It has satellite radio. It can receive text messages, even e-mailing owners fully-detailed diagnostic reports.
Freed likes that he can even control what happens when his teen daughter is behind the wheel without him. For instance, the car can be limited to going 70 mph, tops, and so the radio can't be played above 60 percent.
"I love that," Steve says.
But learning it all can also be a bit overwhelming.
Freed said, "They're going through every widget, button and gadget in the automobile (during his lesson). I don't think I picked up on 50 percent of the tech that this car's capable of putting out."
He's not alone.
Confusing technology is the No. 1 complaint among new car owners, with negative reports on entertainment and navigation systems up 45 percent and problems with voice command devices up 137 percent, according to J.D. Power and Associates.
Technology complaints were a big reason Ford dropped recently from 5th to 23rd in overall customer satisfaction.
Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell says too many gadgets are raising concerns about distracted driving, but some automakers have been unfairly dinged by consumers who want the technology but don't have the patience to learn it.
"You may have to actually read your owner's manual, and people don't like to do that type of thing, so I think there definitely has to be an awareness on both sides," she says.
The owner's manual for Cadillac's new XTS model comes on an iPad.
Louis Houston, a car tech expert, says, "You can actually sit in the comfort of your living room and learn how to use all this technology."
A tech expert takes people for test drives to show everything, including the virtual gauges, that can be customized.
It used to be that if you added a CD player, that was pretty advanced. But this is a whole different deal.
One car's dashboard enables drivers to interact with it the same way they would with an iPad or iPhone. "It's very user-friendly," Houston asserts.
Still, some users may long for the day when they were simply drivers and the car wasn't trying to be so smart.
To see Ben Tracy's report, click on the video in the player above.
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