If you work in the digital radio industry you will have heard many stories of listeners buying a new car which they assume will have digital radio as standard only to get home and discover that they can only listen to analogue radio.
In fact, you probably know some senior member of the digital radio industry who, embarrassingly, have tried to buy a new car with digital radio. Only to find that the digital radio option is like searching for a needle in a haystack or, on finding it as an option, it still costs the equivalent of digital radio in the early nineties (expensive).
For years we have heard why digital radio isn’t in cars – lack of coverage, no consumer demand, no economies of scale or multicounty roll out, no enthusiasm/incentive to ‘sell’ digital radio at dealership level, no automotive grade DAB+ chips, difficult to find digital radio option in the many layers of packages available, cost of digital radio as an option.
On the whole however all of these issues are being tackled in countries where digital radio is maturing as a technology, such as in the UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and in newer markets, such as in Australia and Germany.
Automotive manufacturers are continuing to expand their commitment to DAB+, offering more options in even more vehicles. Volvo sent the following statement to WorldDMB earlier this year saying;
“Volvo customers are in general modern and interested in digital technology. Volvo has therefore the ambition to be early on the market and fully supports the digital generation. Volvo has for years offered USB, Bluetooth hands free, Bluetooth Audio Streaming, Sirius satellite radio, HD-Radio and DAB-radio. Volvo is now launching a second generation DAB-radio. The new radio tuner DAB+ supports the new more effective decoding standard ACC+ which will utilize the bandwidth better and enable better audio quality. The customer can now tune into more digital radio stations than before. The DAB+ radio tuner will available from the early summer 2012 and will be introduced simultaneously across the platform in S60, S80, V40, V60, V70, XC60, and XC70”.
This statement comes alongside support from other car manufacturers who are adding DAB/DAB+ to their ranges. Daimler AG, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Vans join the already existing WorldDMB automotive manufacturer members, AUDI AG, BMW AG, Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Centre Gmbh and Mitsubishi Electric Automotive Europe BV.
As consumers are finding digital radio is not so easy to come by and still has a price tag that many do not figure into their car purchase. The option for including DAB+ in many high end brands remains around high 200-300 Euros. In the short term the future for in-car digital radio should look at ways to reduce the cost of digital radio as an option. In the long term due to the commitment by the automotive industry, we are starting to see that digital radio will be standard and the stories of new cars purchased with analogue only will be a thing of the past.
WorldDMB Project Office