Politicians Are Fighting To Keep AM Radio Alive In Cars

Technology / 16 Comments

Only one automaker has pledged not to kill AM radio.

A group of bipartisan Congressional lawmakers has sent a letter to several major automakers urging them not to discontinue AM radio in new vehicles. According to Fox Business, Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., sent a letter with 100 signatures to Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, Volvo, Tesla, Polestar, Rivian, GM, and Mercedes-Benz earlier this week arguing that AM radio remains an essential feature.

"AM radio plays a crucial role in our nation's emergency communications infrastructure by providing cost-free, ongoing, and life-saving information during natural disasters," said Rep. Pence. "Despite new technologies, the elimination of AM radio from vehicles could still cause a serious communication issue during times of crisis, particularly in rural areas where broadband connectivity is unreliable. It is critical that automaker companies do not deprive the American people of AM radio, as it is a free and potentially life-saving source during emergencies."

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A previous report on this subject claimed the proposed elimination of AM radio was a political conspiracy being pushed by EV automakers. This time, however, lawmakers from both parties are making a reasonable and logical argument.

"Rural Ohioans know the importance of access to AM radio. When the Internet is down or cell service is nonexistent, we need AM radio to keep our families and communities informed and safe," Rep. Latta added.

The news outlet contacted several automakers seeking comment and an update regarding their future AM radio plans. Only one automaker replied: Rivian. The maker of the popular R1T and R1S EVs said: "Rivian offers free access to AM and FM radio services in all Rivian consumer vehicles that come standard in each vehicle. Rivian has no plans to discontinue either of these features in its current or future consumer vehicles."

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Aside from saving money, the reasons why automakers are considering the elimination of AM radio is the added weight (a legitimate concern for already heavy EVs) and the alleged concern the century-old technology causes interference between electromagnetic frequencies from motors and AM radio frequencies, resulting in a weak signal and buzzing sound.

There are an estimated 45 million monthly AM radio users in America, many of whom rely on it for receiving alerts. AM, FM, and Satellite radio all broadcast signals from the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which is critical in case of natural disasters. But, AM covers a greater range than FM and its signals are easier to find. As we've all experienced, satellite radio doesn't usually function when driving through tunnels or in inclement weather.

Ford reportedly has plans to remove AM radio beginning next year in some models but says it will offer alternatives so owners can still listen to their favorite AM stations. Whether this includes the ability to receive EAS alerts remains unknown.

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