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Radio for Android Automotive Discussed at DAB Event

Executives from Xperi and Cariad emphasize the importance of radio’s active involvement

WorldDAB is part of a major industry effort to ensure radio’s place in the Android Automotive operating system. 

At the WorldDAB Summit 2023, held in Munich this past week, Joseph D’Angelo, SVP of broadcast radio for Xperi, and Gregor Pötzsch, product owner, radio at Volkswagen Group’s Cariad, spoke about radio’s position in Android Automotive’s latest release, and the journey to put it there. 

“Android launched Android Automotive, which is an in-car operating system: From 2017 until about mid-2019, there was a lot of development going on,” D’Angelo said. 

“It became very apparent early on that it wasn’t sufficient in how it supported radio. So as the [radio] industry discovered this gap, we pulled together a group of companies from around the world representing broadcast, representing the automotive industry and technology developers to try to focus the attention on this gap or deficiency in Android Automotive.”

He said that effort was led by NAB’s PILOT technology arm, which provided the framework and coordination.

[Read: “New WorldDAB President Plants Her Flag at DAB Summit”]

Gregor Pötzsch, left, and Joe D’Angelo

Given the power of Google to shape the future of in-car entertainment, it is vital for radio to be included in the Android Automotive operating system, he said.

“As radio is going through a digital revolution, both with DAB and HD Radio, there are opportunities presented by the technology that — if they’re not enabled in the car — are useless,” said D’Angelo. 

“The fact that you had critical components of the DAB specification that were not easily integrated in a car radio using Android Automotive was a big miss. And so car companies were sitting there saying, ‘I want to use this, but I don’t want to have radio functionality sacrificed.’ This was a real, important thing for both radio and the auto industry.”

The important thing for radio people to remember in this fight for dashboard presence is that Google itself isn’t focused on radio’s in-car future as a priority. 

“They want to sell Google systems in cars,” said Pötzsch, systems that will serve essentially as vehicle operating systems. 

Thus, the speakers said, the radio and automotive industries need to work together to help define radio’s functionality in Android Automotive. The stakes are too high to leave such decisions to Google alone.

“Working with Google is not easy,” D’Angelo said. “Google is a very complex organization. They have a very structured approach to take input and recommendations from the industry, how they filter that input, how they maintain confidentiality with their development partners, and then how they deliver that information into their engineering team to direct next generation development. It’s very controlled.”

Despite these challenges, he said, Google has accepted input from the radio and auto industries in shaping the latest release of Android Automotive, AOSP 14. He called that tremendously good news for radio broadcasters and listeners.

“This project was very successful, when you look back at the collaboration and the scale of the ecosystem that was represented,” said D’Angelo. “If you just look at the broadcasters that were part of the program, they represented close to 2 billion listeners around the world. When you look at the automakers that were part of it, since the launch of Android Automotive, they’ve probably put 125 million cars into the ecosystem.

“Collaboration was key, and we found the right mix of partners that would get Google’s attention,” he concluded. “We didn’t get everything we wanted … DAB was much better treated than HD Radio. But we’re still having those discussions and we’re already engaged with them on AOSP 15.”

Approximately 400 people attended the summit either in-person or online.

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