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Steps to a Greater Digital Experience in Cars

Guidelines for voice control are among current initiatives

WorldDAB, Martin KochThe author is chairman of the WorldDAB Automotive Working Group and head of Development Entertainment & Car Functions at Volkswagen Car SW.Org Wolfsburg AG.

The EBU’s Digital Radio Summit took place online in February, featuring a wide range of speakers and presentations outlining radio’s multiplatform future.

Radio’s place in the car was high on the agenda throughout the day and I got the opportunity to share — in my capacity as chair of the WorldDAB Automotive Work Group (AWG) — some insights into the uptake of DAB+ digital radio in the car and highlight some of WorldDAB’s recent initiatives in this space.

Strong growth for in-car DAB+ across Europe

The European Electronics Communication Code (EECC) came into force at the end of 2020, meaning new passenger cars sold throughout the EU are now required to include digital radio capabilities.

As expected, this has led to a surge in the number of new cars factory-fitted with DAB+ in Europe since the start of the year, and this growth is set to continue as more countries introduce national regulation reflecting the EECC.

Italy —which introduced national regulation mandating digital radio in the car at the start of 2020, well ahead of its European counterparts — is leading the way in this respect, with 90% of new cars sold now including DAB+ as standard.

Creating a great user experience

Getting DAB+ into cars is merely the first step of the process — in order to guarantee radio’s place at the heart of the connected dashboard, we ought to provide drivers with a great user experience.

Through WorldDAB and the WorldDAB AWG network, we bring together radio broadcasters and auto makers and facilitate cross-industry collaboration with the aim of continuously improving the in-car multimedia experience.

The importance of metadata

WorldDAB Auto Working Group priorities graphic 2021Metadata plays a key role in providing a positive user experience in the car, as it enables the visual information, text and graphics (such as station name and logo, presenter, song title and album artwork) to be displayed on the dashboard while a specific station is playing.

The WorldDAB AWG recently launched a campaign underlining the important role visual information now plays in providing a positive digital radio experience for drivers — and offering guidance to broadcasters on how to use information they already have in the form of metadata to provide a richer experience for the driver.

UX guidelines

Having a common understanding of the user interface in the car is essential, which is why the WorldDAB UX Group — a subgroup within the WorldDAB AWG — published the user experience (UX) guidelines.

Aimed at broadcasters and manufacturers, the guidelines are updated regularly to reflect the changing dashboard and radio’s place in it as well as creating this positive user experience for drivers.

Keeping up with new technologies

Voice control and speech recognition are now essential features in the car dashboard, enabling drivers to search and change stations seamlessly while keeping their eyes on the road.

With that in mind, this year WorldDAB and its members — both vehicle manufacturers and broadcasters — will develop within the UX guidelines guides to using voice control along with providing further clarity to broadcasters on phonemes and their importance.

As well as voice control, the extended guidelines will include new information on hybrid radio and how hybrid, with DAB+ at the heart of it, provides a great digital radio user experience in the car.

Other key areas of focus for the AWG are Android Automotive — and specifically, determining how these new technologies and operating systems will integrate hybrid radio — as well as radio’s place in electric vehicles.

DAB+ at the heart of hybrid

On Wednesday 10 March, WorldDAB and the European Broadcasting Union will co-host a two-hour session where experts will share their insights on how broadcasters can keep radio strong in the car, with DAB+ at the heart of the hybrid radio experience. Register here to attend the virtual event.