It’s had Staying Power, but it has New Challenges Now


Technologies like the eight-track and cassette player have come and gone in the car, and that the CD player is shortly to accompany. And so far, AM and FM auto radio have survived them all. But with Web radio and streaming music services such as iHeartRadio, Pandora and Rhapsody coming to the car broadcasting is facing new types of competition.


“Today it’s much easier for almost any audio content from around the world to find its way into a vehicle provided that the automobile or its driver is connected,” says ThiloKoslowski, an automotive electronics analyst at Gartner. “You no longer need expensive transmitters to get content to the driver’s ears. All you need is space on a server and appealing content.”


That doesn’t mean that conventional AM/FM auto radio will disappear, Koslowski adds. “But it surely will no longer be the only option for consumers.”


Valerie Shuman, a car industry consultant, illustrated the present state of radio through “The Digital Dash” panel at the recent National Association of Broadcasters convention by showing a photo of an elephant climbing into a Model T Ford. The point, she said, is that a whole lot of content is coming into the vehicle.


“In-vehicle infotainment systems have developed from conventional radios into a whole lot more flexible platforms capable of supporting a host of media, content and apps,” she told the audience. Business as usual for broadcasters “is probably not going to be the ideal answer.”


“Every amusement medium has had to adjust to keep applicable, or the world just moves on to another thing,” says GM spokesman Scott Fosgard. But he pointed out that there are services that Internet radio may not have the capacity to replicate, such as local news, weather and live sports.


“I can’t imagine listening to sports without AM/FM or SiriusXM,” he states.