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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The biggest frustration among new car owners is that they can't get their car and smartphone to talk to one another, a new J.D. Power study finds.

Why it matters: Consumers want their digital lives to follow them seamlessly in the car, which is why Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have become so popular. But if the wireless connection is glitchy, such features don't work, leaving car owners unhappy.

  • “Owners are caught in the middle when vehicle and phone technologies don’t properly connect,” says Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power.

Driving the news: 1 in 4 problems cited by car buyers in the first 90 days of ownership involves infotainment, according to the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study (IQS), released Tuesday.

  • For the first time in a decade, voice recognition is not the top problem; instead, it's Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, which worsened significantly, especially for those trying to connect wirelessly.
  • About one-third of new cars now come with a built-in WiFi hub, which may or may not be compatible with a phone's operating system.

Between the lines: Consumers already know how to pair their phones via Bluetooth. And most people have little trouble accessing Apple CarPlay or Android Auto with a USB cable.

  • When it comes to built-in WiFi, "consumers want this. They want to leave their phone in their pocket or purse. So in theory this is a great technology," Sargent tells Axios.
  • "For a lot of people it works just fine, but a significant minority say it’s not working."

It's not just a case of user error, Sargent adds.

  • It's a lack of software coordination between automakers and the tech giants, who are often at odds over controlling the in-car experience (and the valuable data at stake).
  • Phones update frequently, for example, and a connection that worked fine with the previous operating system might no longer sync with the vehicle, Sargent says.

What's needed: Instead of pointing fingers, the two industries must work more closely together to optimize the consumer experience, according to Sargent.

  • "Automakers generally are the ones facing the wrath of owners, but this is definitely a shared problem. Owners don’t care who’s at fault — they just want their phone and their vehicle to talk to each other.”

Go deeper

Sep 7, 2021 - Technology

Ford nabs Apple Car exec in hiring coup

Outline of a car. Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ford Motor Co. poached a senior Apple executive, Doug Field, to lead efforts to make its vehicles as smart and indispensable as the iPhone.

Why it matters: Legacy automakers like Ford need Silicon Valley's software prowess as they try to navigate a historic industrywide transformation. The electric, connected and automated cars of the future will be defined by software in the cloud — not the mechanical parts under the hood.

The intrigue: The hiring was seen as a coup for Ford and a blow to Apple, where Field had been a key player on the iPhone maker’s secret car project.

  • Rumors about the so-called Project Titan have swirled for years, but Apple has said little about the status of its automotive ambitions.
  • Field wouldn't touch the topic during a briefing with reporters.
  • "Apple doesn’t talk about new products, and I won’t talk about it either," he said. "Apple works on a lot of great things in total secrecy."

Details: In his new role, Field will be chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer, reporting to Ford President and CEO Jim Farley.

  • He will lead the development of a new cloud-based, connected-vehicle platform called Blue Oval Intelligence.
  • It will enable customers to continually update their cars with new features — as they do their phones — or to fix warranty problems without visiting a dealership.
  • And it will help create new revenue opportunities for Ford through cloud-based services that consumers want.

Background: Field is a boomerang Ford employee, having started his career there in 1987.

  • His career includes engineering responsibility for some of the world's most iconic products: the Segway scooter, Apple’s Mac computer hardware, and Tesla's Model 3.

What they're saying: "This is a watershed moment for our company — Doug has accomplished so much,” Farley told reporters. “This is just a monumental moment in time that we have now to really remake a 118-year-old company.”

House Democrats strip Iron Dome money from government funding bill

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from its short-term government funding bill after backlash from progressives, people familiar with the decision tell Axios.

Why it matters: There has never a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress. While the funding will likely get a vote in a future defense bill, the clash underscores the deep divisions within the Democratic party over Israel.

Oversight Board calls for more Facebook transparency

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Facebook Oversight Board on Tuesday called on the social media giant to "commit to transparency" in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report last week that millions of high-profile users get special treatment by content moderators.

Why it matters: Although initially funded by Facebook, the Oversight Board operates independently as a kind of Supreme Court for the platform. The company has agreed to obey its rulings on specific content disputes, but the board's broader policy advice is strictly on a "recommendation" basis.