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Auto Analyst to Radio: Don’t Freak Out

As GM’s platform evolves, just as many models are adding HD Radio as are dropping it

It’s more about a platform transition, and less about HD Radio.

That’s the gist from auto analyst Roger Lanctot at Strategy Analytics blogging about the recent news that GM has temporarily dropped the digital radio technology from several models.

Just as many new GM models are adding HD Radio as are dropping it “so the net is no change and the long-term outlook is for continued broad-based deployment,” he writes. That seems to back-up iBiquity’s prediction that auto adoption of HD remains strong overall.

However, Lanctot there’s a larger issue coming into play as automakers in general upgrade their digital in-dash entertainment platforms — the driver’s access to traffic data. In North America, traffic is delivered via analog and digital radio signals through the car radio, satellite radio via existing radio hardware and Internet Protocol delivery via an embedded modem or connected smartphone. Aside from satellite delivery the channels are the same in Europe and elsewhere, according to the auto analyst.

“For a car company such as GM, the suspicion is that if the 2015 Impala is going to lose HD Radio, then GM’s plan must be to push streaming audio over the embedded Gen 10 OnStar LTE modem. But it is unlikely that this was the intention behind the HD Radio deletion,” he writes.

Yet multiple traffic data delivery channels are available overall, and for each vehicle. A GM driver can listen to free traffic on over-the-air radio, or pay a subscription to hear it on satellite radio.

If that driver has HD in the vehicle, it’s possible to have map data delivered to the navigation tuner too. However, notes Lanctot, GM has not implemented HD Radio-delivered traffic data via the TPEG standard.

Further, GM is in the process of introducing traffic information either from INRIX or TrafficCast. Both are vying to deliver an IP-based traffic feed that would also integrate with GM “probe data,” according to the analyst. Eventually Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto information could be added to the mix.

Right now, Telenav, which works with both TomTom and INRIX traffic information sources, supplies navigation to GM vehicle.

The upshot is that GM has a lot of traffic options and may be tempted to provide them all and let customers decide which to use, surmises Lanctot, who doesn’t believe the automaker “dialing back” on HD Radio is a precursor to dropping AM/FM altogether in the dash.