One in a series
of articles wrapping up news and themes from the recent NAB Show.
improve their audio and in-dash displays, the penetration of Internet
radio in the car could grow significantly over the next few years. In
the third column to the left, ‘BT’ indicates Bluetooth
capability. Source: CEA
Rising cellphone use
in cars, longer commute times and the introduction of newer tech in
the dashboard are creating a wild, wild west atmosphere that’s hard
even for automakers to navigate, according to consumer electronics
and auto experts.
“We’ve seen more
change in the vehicle dash in the last five years than in the
previous 20,” said Connected Vehicle Trade Association Vice
President of Industry Programs Valerie Shuman at the recent NAB Show.
The convergence of
such disruptive forces is both a challenge and an opportunity for
radio, experts agree.
talk about radio’s future in the car dashboard, veteran engineer Barry Thomas said it’s not so much
that radio would be left out of the dash as that the medium could get
“lost in the shuffle” by busy consumers, given the proliferating
competing technologies in the car and those to come.
The smartphone has
had a tremendous impact in the connected car, said Shuman. She said
no one is thinking of taking radio out of the car, but that the
so-called “center stack” is becoming more like a big-screen
At the same time,
drivers are spending an average of 16.5 hours a week in the car.
Sixty-seven percent of drivers own a smartphone and 70 percent of
cellphone use takes place in the car, according to Jon Bucci, an
automotive consultant who recently retired from Toyota’s connected
The big push
regarding connected cars is in the area of safety.
“We kill 33,000
people a year on our roads,” Shuman said, adding that automakers
are developing vehicles to operate more efficiently in stop-and-go
traffic. Under development are cars “that can hit the brake and the
gas for you” as well as well as keep a good distance between your
vehicle and the one ahead of you, freeing up some of a driver’s
Changes coming to
the car dashboard are huge, and local radio’s competition isn’t
limited to other stations. Lots of people want to make money from
that transformation, Shuman said, including automakers, their
suppliers and the telecom industry.
SAFETY VS. CONSUMERS
Building a new car
platform typically takes three to five years. Connected car services
cause disruption in the car industry because those changes are
happening more quickly, according to Bucci, now executive vice
president of strategic planning for Concannon Business Consulting.
its Entune infotainment system in 2011 after only 17 months of
development. At the time, “that was unheard of,” Bucci said.
He agrees with
Shuman that automakers have their eye on safety. Young buyers are
eco-conscious. They want to stay connected while driving, to
decompress or stay productive. “Customers are saying, ‘Why can’t
I just plug in my device directly?’”
their content, when they want it on the device,” Bucci said, and
potential car buyers want a full browsing experience in the dash;
but, he continued, they can’t have that, for safety reasons. “All
it’s going to take is one celebrity to wrap their car around a
tree, and the car company didn’t disable something to prevent that
Entune, Toyota looked at factors such as “task time” and menu
depth” when determining which connectivity features to offer in the
vehicle. For safety reasons, Bucci said, the automaker must determine
“how far do you let them go before the screen locks?”
Circling back to how
dashboard disruption affects radio, Bucci advised broadcasters to
create “a simple environment.
overloaded.” Listeners still appreciate air personalities and speak
to automakers about the surprise and delight of discovering new music
from radio. “We still think content is king,” said Bucci,
speaking of automakers in general.
CD PLAYERS ON THE
What of trends for
the physical radios still found in the dash?
RW has reported that
the in-dash CD player is on the wane. CEA Senior Director of
Technology & Standards Mike Bergman confirms that trend in the
aftermarket product world.
aftermarket receiver purchaser is a young male age 18 to 34. The
average car is 11 years old. In general, purchasers want more
features than are found in the original in-dash receiver, so they’re
buying replacement equipment. Some aftermarket purchasers include
families with kids who want to purchase more capable navigation
systems, Bergman said.
He uses the new
Pioneer AppRadio as an example of an in-dash aftermarket receiver
with no CD player.
believe it’s necessary anymore in that product. It does have a
radio,” said Bergman; and the radio image on the lower left of the
touchscreen “is as close to the driver as you can get.” RW
featured the Pioneer AppRadio in our post-CES coverage in the Feb. 13
And what is the
impact of all of this dashboard activity on HD Radio?
Shuman says iBiquity
Digital has been doing a good job of getting HD Radio receivers into
the car; Bucci predicts 100 percent OEM penetration “very soon,”
broadly estimating to RW that this could happen in the next two to
However Bucci said
quality issues — such as the digital signal sometimes cutting in
and out “in what is supposed to be an HD experience” — are a
concern. It has taken awhile for automakers to really incorporate HD
Radio, he believes, because some carmakers “were confused”
initially about what HD Radio is. “Is it HD? Is it these
substations?” Carmakers at first “didn’t really know the
promise of HD.”
iBiquity “did a great job” of telling the HD Radio story to
retailers and manufacturers, but said the “consumer pull still
isn’t there.” Consumer interest can only be generated by
broadcasters, he said, acknowledging that conveying a technology
story to consumers “is difficult.”
The execution of HD
Radio at the station level has become more complicated, Bergman said;
in addition to keeping digital signals on the air, stations need to
monitor text displays, streams and features like Artist Experience.
“You’re not just looking at an FM modulator anymore.”
This is one in a series of articles about radio’s role and future in the evolving automobile dashboard. To read other articles visit http://radioworld.com/dashboard.
broadcasters to apply a “whole product strategy” and to employ
best practices regarding dashboard displays. Stations that send no
text are, essentially, presenting “dead air” on the display, he
said. Static text such as call letters or “become a member of WXXX”
equates to “Don’t look at me.” Redundant text such as “now
playing” constitutes visual noise and blocks a station’s text
improve their audio and in-dash displays, penetration of Internet
radio in the car could grow significantly over the next few years,
with 8 percent penetration in vehicles in 2011 and a projected 80
percent by 2016, according to CEA estimates.
Bergman said Fortune
Magazine projects U.S. smartphone sales to total 120 million in 2013.
As smartphone sales rise, so too will Internet radio listening in the
car, Bergman predicts, as manufacturers make the mechanics of in-car
Internet connectivity easier over time.