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In-Car Digital Radio Leads the Way on Hybrid Development

Improving user experience is essential as the number of cars with digital radio increases

The author is chair, WorldDAB Automotive Working Group, and market development director, Digital Radio UK.

In the last 12 months DAB+ has made significant progress — with all major markets increasing the proportion of new cars fitted with digital radio as standard, and the adoption of the EECC directive by the European Union, requiring all new cars sold in the EU 18 months from now to be equipped with digital radio receivers. In advanced markets the majority of new cars are now sold with DAB+ as standard, with Norway leading the way with 98 percent, the United Kingdom close behind on 95 percent and Switzerland on 85 percent. As more countries roll out digital radio, attention is focused on converting the millions of cars already on the road to DAB+, enabling drivers to continue listening to digital radio across borders.

As the number of cars with digital radio increases, it is essential that the user experience goes above and beyond driver expectations, and WorldDAB has been working closely with the automotive sector to do this. Increasingly, the infotainment systems in new cars include IP connectivity and voice control which can really enhance the radio experience. The next step of WorldDAB’s work is to ensure the radio experience in connected cars is as good as possible and Hybrid Radio, DAB+ working with IP, ensures that.


In just two years the WorldDAB Automotive group has produced several significant pieces of work, which are already having an impact and being implemented by automotive OEMs — showing the benefits of close collaboration between the radio and automotive industries.

Our research on the digital radio user experience (UX) in-car has enabled us to talk with confidence about how drivers use their digital radio and the user interface they need to provide the best experience. Almost exactly a year ago, we produced the first ever digital radio user experience design guidelines for the car and broadcast industries, providing clear guidance on best practice for the digital radio user interface and how this should be supported by good quality data from broadcasters. Following discussion and feedback from all the major car manufacturers over the last 12 months we are about to launch an updated version of the guidelines which will also include a clear roadmap to hybrid radio.

Meanwhile our work on antenna and receiver sensitivity is providing a vital link between network operators and car manufacturers. Later in January we will publish a number of European DAB+ test routes for car manufacturers, supported by WorldDAB member contacts in each country. This has been a specific request from car manufacturers and further strengthens the high level of collaboration we are now seeing.

We have been hugely impressed with the level of engagement and positive response from the wider automotive industry since the UX guidelines were launched last year. Throughout 2019 we will be continuing our close collaboration with car manufacturers on DAB+ performance and the user experience of digital radio in-car, with a clearer focus on supporting hybrid radio in connected cars. The WorldDAB User Experience Guidelines are available to download from the WorldDAB website here.


WorldDAB has also created a working group, focused on the performance and user experience of aftermarket devices for DAB+ in the car. The Aftermarket Devices Working Group (ADWG) brings together broadcasters, device and antenna manufacturers, plus experts from the automotive industry, in an important collaboration for digital radio in the car. The Group works on improving receiver performance, antennas, guidance on installation, marketing and all other areas to ensure aftermarket devices give the driver the best digital radio listening experience.

The chairman of the group is Jørn Jensen, a senior advisor at NRK who was closely involved in helping Norwegian drivers convert to digital in the recent digital switchover. “The aftermarket sector has seen a significant increase in demand over the last few years, with more drivers looking to bring the extra choice and better quality of DAB+ into their cars,” says Jensen.

“This group has been established to bring together all of the players from the value chain to ensure that drivers get the best possible digital radio experience. This group is focusing on key areas including technology development and innovation, better performance, best-case marketing initiatives and installation programs and training. I encourage any interested parties to get in touch with the WorldDAB Project Office to find out more about the work or join the team in this Working Group.”


Every year the WorldDAB Automotive conference brings together the biggest names in the car industry and 2018 was no different, bringing together several major auto manufacturers and most of their tier-one suppliers. The conference is the only place where broadcasters and automotive OEMs can discuss together the future of digital radio in the in-car, market developments and growth and share plans and work being undertaken by broadcasters and the wider digital radio community to promote DAB+ in cars.

These discussions are essential in delivering the best experience for the driver. The WorldDAB Automotive 2019 conference will be taking place in Turin on Thursday June 20.