Chevrolet first introduced radios to automobiles over 100 years ago in 1922, with car radios becoming mainstream in 1930 with the Motorola 5T71. While AM radio has less range and more noise than the more popular FM format, it still has its fair share of aficionados, including those who listen while driving. While some of the backlash over removing AM radio capabilities comes from these old-school enthusiasts and the various local stations that still use it, there are more serious implications to consider.
Ford drivers could stream AM radio, but the broadcast technology, like FM radio, doesn’t require a paid subscription and is a way for anyone — including low-income drivers – to receive news and entertainment as long as they have a receiver. However, it’s AM radio’s role in communicating information during public emergencies that is ultimately keeping it inside Ford vehicles. With quickly unfolding natural disasters like floods and wildfires occurring more and more frequently in and near populated areas, the ability of local governments and institutions like FEMA to broadcast alerts to as many people in as many ways as possible is more vital than ever.
That’s precisely why, in a rare show of bipartisan support, senators and House representatives from both parties introduced the AM for Every Vehicle Act to Congress last week. The bill requires new cars to maintain the ability to receive AM transmissions without any extra surcharges, allowing drivers unfettered access to emergency broadcasts. The government intervention will keep motorists safer and is icing on the cake for fans of local jazz, talk radio, and other “AM Gold” stations.