Changing Car Audio Technology

By Andy Beaubien, BPR

US auto makers are ceasing production of car audio systems that include the AM medium-wave band. European car makers have been doing so for years.

So why are US auto makers deleting AM medium-wave band from car audio systems? The reason may not be so obvious.

In the US, almost all AM stations have reverted to news/talk programs as car listeners have come to realize that the audio quality of AM medium-wave is clearly inferior to that of FM and digital audio. However, an additional reason for the abandonment of AM stems from the fact that electric vehicles (EV’s) produce electromagnetic waves at around the same frequency as AM medium-wave signals. The result is significant interference between the AM receiver and the EV’s engine.

It is ironic that the advent of electric vehicles will be the final straw that breaks the back of AM radio listening in the US.

Electric vehicles are here to stay. EU member nations have agreed to stop sales of internal combustion autos by 2035. The large US auto makers will probably not be far behind as internal combustion engines go the way of tyrannosaurus rex.

The Jacobs Media Tech Survey 2022 that was conducted in the US shows that Bluetooth has now overtaken FM as the preferred audio source in automobiles. The reason is fairly obvious. An increasing number of car listeners use their mobile phones as a primary audio source and Bluetooth is currently one of the most common methods of connecting a smart phone to a car audio system. We can safely conclude that the smart phone is for many users the primary source of audio content in the car.

As this trend progresses, radio stations are finding themselves directly competing with virtually every other digital audio source available on a smart phone.  

 

 

Even FM radio has become harder to find in modern car audio systems. FM is just one of a number of listening choices on the car touch screen.

Once again, we are reminded that radio companies are essentially audio content providers. Our job is to ensure that our program content is appealing and unique. In the age of digital audio, all players are equal. It is only the content that distinguishes the winners from the losers.

 

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