WASHINGTON-If so-called ``smart car'' technology works, is priced right and merchandised correctly, consumers will purchase it. So said J.D. Power III, president of J.D. Power and Associates, the California-based firm that specializes in gauging consumer attitudes.
Mr. Power said intelligent vehicle-highway systems (IVHS) will need a champion among carmakers who can convince the buying public of the safety value of the new electronics in the way Chrysler Corp.'s former chairman, Lee Iacocca, sold airbags.
``Information and education are as essential as the technology itself in making it successful,'' he said during the Society of Automotive Engineers' annual Washington meeting March 28.
IVHS is the general term for a variety of electronic systems being developed to control traffic and reduce accidents. Some systems may not generate wide customer interest. For example, trip-guide programs don't appear to have a big future in the passenger car sector.
But IVHS technology like intelligent cruise control and crash-avoidance electronics could be popular with drivers.
Still, it will have to be user friendly for drivers, said EugeneFarber of Ford Motor Co. Drivers need to be able to use IVHS systems in 1.5 seconds or less, about the maximum time they can devote to the instrument panel.
The system will also have to be developed to the point where false alarms are minimal. One early collision warning system wouldn't let the car go past road construction barrels.
Mr. Farber said designers will have to decide on the system's priorities. It may be more important to reduce the number of serious collisions than to eliminate the more common but less serious minor collisions.
Mr. Power said the old practice of introducing new accessories on high-line vehicles first won't work. Automakers need volume to make new equipment affordable and all buyers want up-to-date accessories.
``Once American consumers get a taste of something, they want it,'' Mr. Power said.