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Would AM Mandate Force Carmakers to Scrap Safety Features?

Opponents play up the possibility that carmakers would have to choose

If Congress requires AM radio in new cars, vehicle manufacturers might have to drop safety features instead.

That’s the message from opponents of the proposed law in Congress. A guest commentary published by Automotive News restates the key points that opponents have been making since the legislation was introduced; but their blunt emphasis on a possible tradeoff with important safety features seems notable.

“To accommodate analog AM radio as a primary design requirement, certain carmakers may need to scrap advanced safety features, with engineers having to prioritize outdated technology over current or future safety innovations,” they wrote.

“If the goal is to save American lives, Congress should encourage automakers to focus on innovative technologies like advanced driver-assistance systems, autonomous vehicles and collision avoidance systems that actually reduce car accidents and fatalities,” they wrote.

They did not provide specifics of how much AM would cost to keep in comparison to such features.

The authors are Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association; Linda Moore, CEO of TechNet; John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation; and Albert Gore, executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association.

Below a photo of a 1970s-era radio, they wrote that a mandate would “kneecap American automakers’ ability to compete in a rapidly evolving and global automotive landscape. … An analog AM radio mandate adds unnecessary complexities to the design and manufacturing process of these vehicles and harms our global competitiveness.”

They said a mandate “would be a barrier to the success of America’s growing electric vehicle industry” because of the problem of noise on AM from electronic components. “While EV makers could reduce interference by installing additional shielding, there is no way to resolve this issue completely. These additional components would also increase production costs.”

They say AM listenership is in decline, yet that at current car replacement rates, “even if analog AM radio were phased out tomorrow — which no one is suggesting — it would be decades before it disappeared from all cars on American roads.”

And they reiterated their view that the number of people who rely on AM radio for emergency alerts is insignificant. “It is also likely … that many if not most AM radio stations are not staffed much of the time, especially at night, the only time AM has broader coverage than FM.” They said Congress should not mandate “foreign-made, outdated technology in every car when it will provide little safety value is inconsistent with good public policy.”

Read the commentary.

Supporters of the AM legislation, led by the National Association of Broadcasters, have consistently rejected these arguments, highlighting the continued role of AM in American life as well as its part in the emergency alerting infrastructure.

NAB recently said that more than 300 members of Congress are cosponsoring the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act, but said time was running out for the House and Senate leadership to act. “Whether or not this bill passes now rests with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Johnson, House Majority Leader Scalise and Minority Leader Jeffries,” the association stated on its website this month. It asked broadcasters to encourage their listeners to send a text urging the leadership to bring the bill to a vote.

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