Home Tech Automakers want to remove AM radios from cars. Congress is about to demand them

Automakers want to remove AM radios from cars. Congress is about to demand them

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 Automakers want to remove AM radios from cars. Congress is about to demand them

A controversial bill that would require all new cars to be equipped with AM radios appears set to become law in the near future. Yesterday, Senator Edward Markey revealed that the AM Radio Law for Every Vehicle It now has the support of 60 US senators, as well as 246 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, making its passage almost certain. If that were to happen, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have to ensure that all new cars sold in the United States have AM radios at no additional cost.

“Democrats and Republicans are tuning in to the millions of listeners, thousands of broadcasters and countless emergency management officials who rely on AM radio in their vehicles. AM radio is a lifeline for people in every corner of the United States to receive local news, sports, and updates in times of emergency. Our common sense bill ensures that this fundamental and essential tool is not lost on the dial. With a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate, Congress should take it up and pass it quickly,” said Markey and his co-sponsor, Sen. Ted Cruz.

About 82 million people still listen to AM radio, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, which, as you might imagine, was pretty pleased with Congress’ support for its industry.

“Broadcasters are grateful for the overwhelming bipartisan support for the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act in both houses of Congress,” said NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt. “This majority endorsement reaffirms lawmakers’ recognition of the essential service that AM radio provides to the American people, particularly in emergency situations. “NAB thanks the 307 members of Congress who are reinforcing the importance of maintaining universal access to this crucial means of public communication.”

Why are they eliminating AM anyway?

The reason there’s even a bill in Congress to require AM radios in all new vehicles is that some automakers have begun abandoning the option, particularly in electric vehicles. A major reason for this is electromagnetic interference from electric motors; Rather than risk customer complaints about poor audio quality, some automakers decided to eliminate it.

But it’s not exclusively an electric vehicle problem; Last year we met the revised Ford Mustang coupe. It would also arrive without AM radio, which Ford told us was because radio stations were modernizing “by offering streaming via mobile apps, FM, digital and satellite radio options,” and would continue to offer those. other audio options in your vehicles. .

In response to Congressional questioning, eight automakers told a Senate committee they would leave AM: BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo. This “undermined the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s system for delivering critical public safety information to the public,” Senator Markey’s office said last year, and supporters of the legislation see AM radio’s role as platform to deliver emergency alerts to the public perhaps is the key reason for its need.

The technology and automotive industries are not happy

But critics of the bill, including the Consumer Technology Association, don’t buy that argument. In October 2023, FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission conducted a nationwide test of the emergency alert system. According to the CTA, which surveyed 800 American adults, of the 95 percent of American adults who listened to the test, only 6 percent did so on the radio, and only 1 percent specifically on AM radio. Instead, 92 percent received the alert on their smartphone.

“Requiring the installation of analog AM radios in cars is an unnecessary action that would impact the range, efficiency and affordability of electric vehicles at a critical time of accelerated adoption,” said Albert Gore, executive director of ZETA, a group of clean vehicle advocacy that opposes the AM radio requirement. “Mandating AM radio would do little to expand drivers’ ability to receive emergency alerts. At a time when we are more connected than ever, we encourage Congress to allow manufacturers to innovate and produce designs that meet consumer preferences, rather than pushing a specific communications technology,” Gore said in a statement.

This story originally appeared on Ars Technique.

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