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Car Infotainment Systems to Become Multi-Screen

Is radio holding its own in cars?

Tomorrow’s “connected cars” will have multiple screens, many of them supported by the upcoming Android Automotive OS 14 software release. These and other automotive audio trends — and what they mean for radio — were explored on June 15, 2023 at the WorldDAB Automotive 2023 conference. It was staged both in person in Paris, France and online. WorldDAB exists to promote the adoption of the digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio transmission standard worldwide.

When it comes to video displays inside the latest cars, they will go from a single screen in today’s Tesla to “high end cars with up to six screens,” said Vincent Derouault-Tep, ACCESS Europe’s account manager (automotive). He expects multi-screen systems to be able to share media from one screen to another, and to support personalized service to passengers. “There’s not only radio: They can read their messages, they can read a newspaper, and they can watch something,” Derouault-Tep said.

When asked whether the upcoming Android Automotive OS 14 release will support DAB+ as well as multiple screens, Xperi SVP of Global Radio and Digital Audio Joe D’Angelo replied, “Android Automotive has always supported DAB.” However, he says the fact that “Android is very careful about sharing product development road maps and schedules” has meant that “the NAB and WorldDAB members were kind of in the dark” about its planned features. “They didn’t know what was going on,” he told the WorldDAB Automotive 2023 audience.

Thankfully, “we’re in Phase Three of Android’s four stage software release schedule,” said D’Angelo. “That’s where we’ve been working with them to review the code and do some basic function testing.” With any luck, Android Automotive OS 14 should be released this September and [should have] lots of features that tie into digital radio, he added. “So wait until September. I think you’ll be popping champagne and celebrating.”

Xperi’s Joe D’Angelo said that Android Automotive OS 14 will have radio broadcasters, “popping champagne and celebrating.”

One way that radio engineers have aided the development of Android Automotive OS 14 is by helping Android to make this platform support hybrid radio. Hybrid radio is a combination of over-the-air radio and web access via mobile wireless that enables true interactivity between radio stations and their audiences. “This process was very complicated — it was almost hacking the system — but we did it,” said Xavier Filliol, COO of Radioline. “It needs to be improved, definitely. But now we have an open standard, we’ll be able to do that.”

Despite the challenges associated with ensuring radio’s place in the car via Android Automotive and hybrid radio, the panelists in the “In-car cabin design trends and what to expect with Android Automotive OS 14” session are upbeat about the future. They also agreed that DAB+’s penetration progress in new European cars represents a “tipping point” in favor of this digital radio format, and ensures radio’s place in connected cars going forward.

“I think it’s a unique tipping point because you’ve had the benefit here in Europe for a couple years of the European Electronic Communications Code advancing DAB as a foundational technology,” he said. “The tipping point is here, it’s now and the opportunity is now and thankfully we’re in this room discussing how to seize that opportunity.”

This is Part 2 of a four-part series on the 2023 WorldDAB Automotive conference. Read Part 3

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