Radio, Wireless Duke It Out In-Dash

The radio industry is at a crossroads when it comes to its presence in the dashboard. Stations fear becoming lost in a sea of app logos on automakers’ evolving dashboard displays — or worse — as cars become autonomous vehicles.

Radio competes with smartphones more and more in the dashboard and as that space in the vehicle evolves, radio risks losing its visibility, said John Ellis, founder of John Ellis & Associates, during a panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon at the NAB and RAB Radio Show. He described a demonstration Ford is displaying at the show taking place this week in Austin, Texas. “We’re talking about radio dot 2.0, to re-envision it in a way that Apple and other companies” can develop it “and give OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) a chance to deliver customizable, over-the-air broadcasts.”

He feels radio in its current form is a placeholder; that the medium hasn’t yet fully explored connectivity. “These guys are,” he said, meaning the wireless industry as he held up a smartphone.

Scott Deaver, EVP/Chief marketing officer for Avis Budget Group, said “Nobody is thinking ‘why are we paying for a cell device in the car when maybe there’s a smarter’” and less expensive way to accomplish connectivity functions like telling the driver or the dealership when there’s a maintenance issue.

Automakers are under lots of pressure to cut costs for every car part, noted Joe D’Angelo Senior Vice President, Broadcast Radio, Xperi, the company that now owns HD Radio technology. “We need to make sure radio is constantly demonstrating its value” to automakers, he said.

Ellis, who used to work for Ford, said the OEMs are learning that “cell coverage is not a commodity” and it can’t always be relied on. “Ford Truck wants coverage where trucks drive, not just where cell sites are.” As OEMs continue to transition their dashboard displays, an organization “could move them in the right direction.”

“We have built a connected car platform. Broadcasters control what’s delivered,” said D’Angelo. He urged the industry to come together because “lots of companies are waiting in the wings. They can look at your content and deliver what they want to in the car and then you lose control.”

September 8, 2017                

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