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AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act to Receive Minor Technical Update

There will be no substantive changes to the legislation

A bill in the House of Representatives that would mandate AM capability in new vehicles is about to be revised, according to a person familiar with the developments. 

New information indicates that one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), plans to introduce an amendment to the bill (H.R. 8449). Changes would only include minor technical updates. 

The planned amendment to the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act comes on the heels of last week’s last-minute cancellation of a planned vote by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which could have advanced the legislation to the full House for a vote. 

Pallone’s amendment will include “no substantive” changes to the legislation, according to the insider, and will be introduced at the next full committee markup. The amendment will clarify that the bill applies to new vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States, as well to vehicles manufactured abroad and sold in the U.S.; however, vehicles built in the U.S. but sold overseas would not be required to include AM capability. Lawmakers said in April that the amendment would specify that the new rules requiring AM radio’s inclusion the dashboard would be strictly for passenger cars and trucks, and not commercial vehicles

The bill, if passed, will require the Secretary of Transportation to issue a new rule requiring access to AM broadcast stations in motor vehicles. 

Supporters say the legislation has gained strong bipartisan support in both chambers. At present, it has 254 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 61 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate (S.1669). 

The wording of the current legislation was previously amended to mirror the language in the bill passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee. We reported at the time auto manufacturers would have at least two years to comply with the rule if the bill becomes law, or face a civil penalty. However, some manufacturers that produce fewer than 40,000 passenger cars for sale in the U.S. would have four years to meet the new requirement.

The bill would also direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study whether alternative communication systems could fully replicate the reach and effectiveness of AM broadcast radio for alerting the public to emergencies.

Meanwhile, Communications Daily reports that Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) plans to propose an amendment in the House that would scrap the AM radio requirement if the GAO study determines an “incompatibility” between AM radio receivers and “advancement of future safety technology in motor vehicles, including on-vehicle sensors and power systems.”

The report indicates Dingell has previously been critical of mandating AM’s inclusion in new vehicles. During a House hearing in May, after having conversations with several Detroit auto executives, Dingell said she believes many automakers are ready to commit to voluntarily keeping AM in vehicles.

Dingell represents Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, which includes parts of suburban Detroit. An email to her office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The auto industry recently claimed keeping AM radio in cars will cost as much as $3.8 billion with some of those costs passed onto consumers. It also says passage of the new AM radio mandate could also force some carmakers to scrap other safety features.

[Read more stories about the future of AM radio in cars]

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