Congress debates mandating AM radios in new vehicles

Person changing radio dial in car
Photo credit Getty Images

(WWJ) – U.S. Senators are meeting in Washington to discuss a bill that would make it mandatory for automakers to include AM radios in all new vehicles – something some carmakers have stopped doing in an effort to cut costs.

To the surprise of some, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seemed to agree ditching AM radio is not a good idea. Sponsors of the proposed bill cite the role AM radio has in emergencies especially in rural areas.

The hearings come after eight automobile makers have either dropped, or intend to drop, AM radio in certain car models.

These car makers say the motors interfere with AM radio in electric vehicles, causing faded signals and an irritating buzzing sound.

Earlier this year former emergency management officials wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warning of the “grave threat” to emergency response if AM were to be eradicated from cars.

Last month Ford reversed course and decided to keep AM radio in new vehicles, despite a slightly higher cost due to extra shielding required in electric vehicles. This week Republican Sen. Ted Cruz spoke to the importance of AM radio, noting roughly 82 million Americans listen to it every day.

“Pulling AM radio from cars does enormous damage,” Cruz said. “So I joined together with Ed Markey. Ed Markey is a Liberal, Democrat Senator from Massachusetts. It is rare that Ed Markey and I are together on a bill.”

But India Herdman with the Consumer Technology Association told Daily J podcast host Zach Clark after leaving the Senate hearing she was focused on autonomous vehicle legislation until just a few weeks ago.

“We entered the scene because we are historically opposed to technology mandates,” Herdman said. “We think that in a free market economy, the consumers should decide the future that they desire. And if consumers desire AM radio in their vehicles, automakers will provide that because that’s gonna enhance their businesses.”

While Herdman acknowledges the importance of AM when it comes to emergency response, she says most Americans rely on their cell phones to get their information.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images