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Bipartisan Bill Expected To Save AM Radio Despite Automaker Protests

Key Takeaways

  • A bill requiring AM radios in all new vehicles has strong bipartisan support in Congress, likely to pass soon.
  • AM radio plays a vital role in emergency communication, reaching 82 million monthly listeners in the US.
  • Automakers face challenges with AM radio interference in EVs, needing solutions to integrate the technology effectively.

A bill introduced in Congress would require all new vehicles to be sold with an AM radio installed, and it looks like it may have the momentum to pass. The AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act was introduced by Senator Edward Markey last year, and it’s garnered support from both sides of the aisle. 60 Senators and 246 House Representatives have signed on in a massive show of Bipartisan support, all but assuring the bill will pass both chambers and be enacted into law.

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If passed, every automaker will be required by the NHTSA to include the over 100-year-old technology in all upcoming vehicles at no extra charge to the consumer. This means vehicles like the Tesla Model S and the BMW i5 will have to include the technology from here on out, forcing automakers to resolve the interference problems that plague the technology when mixed with electric vehicles.

2018-2019 Toyota Sequoia Radio

A Vital Piece Of US Communications

According to the National Association of Broadcasters, AM radio reaches 82 million monthly listeners, proving its resilience in the face of constantly evolving technology. News, sports, entertainment, and more find their way into people’s households and vehicles every day, and according to a Nielsen report from mid-2023, combined with the FM radio band, radio reached 91% of Americans in a given month.

A big part of the reason for the bill is the AM radio system is a major cornerstone of the Emergency Broadcast System, and lawmakers believe its reach and ease of use make it a necessary aspect of this American safety net. In many rural parts of America, AM radio is the only type of radio that can reach them, meaning its discontinuation could cut off millions of Americans. A war or apocalyptic event could make this critical.

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“Democrats and Republicans are tuning in to the millions of listeners, thousands of broadcasters, and countless emergency management officials who depend on AM radio in their vehicles. AM radio is a lifeline for people in every corner of the United States to get news, sports, and local updates in times of emergencies. Our commonsense bill makes sure this fundamental, essential tool doesn’t get lost on the dial.”

– Statement from US Senators Edward Markey and Ted Cruz.

2020-2022 Hyundai Palisade Radio A Complicated Problem To Solve

While it’s easy to see why lawmakers would want it to continue to be included, automakers have valid criticisms of the technology, namely that it doesn’t mesh well with the frequencies given off by EVs. The vehicles cause static in the signal and an unmistakable hum that makes the technology almost unusable, and its inclusion in future EVs will force them to find ways to mitigate this interference as much as possible.

A report released last year by the independent organization Center for Automotive Research says that the rate of adoption of EVs over the next seven years will necessitate an extra investment of about $70 per vehicle to the tune of $4 billion overall. Although the bill states this technology has to be offered free of charge to the consumer, there’s no telling how this cost will be passed along to the consumer, and the major concern with EV adoption has been the high barrier of entry.

Companies like Stellantis have already taken it upon themselves to add extra shielding to their vehicles to mitigate the problem, and Ford has even reintroduced AM radio to cars like the Mustang Mach-E in preparation.

2021-2022 Honda Accord Hybrid Radio

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