Radio and the connected car

Report from Kristie Mercer at the 2013 USA RadioShow.

Video never managed to kill the radio star. The brutal truth is radio has today managed to survive as a stable and popular media format since the 1800’s, digging its boots into an ever- changing media landscape.

Radio has survived the introduction of the television in the 1920’s mobile phones in the 70’s, and even the in-car phone in the 90’s; but the marketplace has never been so crowded. With the explosion of online radio in recent years, there is no time a time like the present for radio to maintain a stronghold in the media ecosystem. 

Radio’s saving grace has always been the isolated bubble of the car. 34% of all radio listening takes place on four wheels within Australia, due to complete isolation from every other media device once the car door is shut…until now…

The experts, Fred Jacobs, President of Jacobs Media and Roger Lanctot, Associate Director of Global Automotive Practice, take us through the future of radio in the connected car:

“Remember the days when a phone was just a phone? When a car was a car? Those days are long gone,” describes Roger. “By 2017, we predict 140 million cars will be connected.”

But just how connected are we talking here? Let’s take a look… The 17 inch Connected Car screen will feature:

  • Social media pages  
  • Full web browser 
  • Digital radio stations
  • Satelite radio stations
  • USB port
  • DVD player
  • iPod connectivity
  • SD card
  • Bluetooth capabilities   
  • Navman 
  • Telephone capabilities

Fred explains: “Radio is still the king of in-car mediums as it’s the only way advertisers can reach consumers privately…especially since 76% of people are alone in the car whilst they drive.” 

But the way we consume audio in the car is changing. People now expect a complete vehicle entertainment system, and unless radio comes up with a competitive solution, the medium will become obsolete within vehicles.

Roger agrees: “We now have digital and satellite radio to compete with in the car so unless we lay down some chips for the future of the industry, we will fall behind”. 

Radio has always been limited to your location, but things are changing. In a connected car for instance – if you’re driving listening to your favourite radio station and go out of coverage area, you could seamlessly flip over to an internet stream of that station and continue listening wherever you are! It makes the platform universal.

“It allows consumers to listen to their hometown radio stations when they’re out of town. It allows them to go straight to the source. Take the Boston Marathon tragedy for instance” Fred suggests. “You could tune into a Boston radio station that would be on the ground, in the midst of everything to get the most accurate information possible.”

“We have to understand the journey the car and radio industries are on. 58% of people use their phones in some capacity whilst they drive. Why can’t your car provide those services instead of their smartphones?” questions Fred. “We need people to access these services in a non-distracting way.”

Developers are working on a seventeen inch touch screen which will appear like a tablet. That way users won’t have to relearn the system, it will be similar to other devices they’re farmiliar with. ‘In the future it won’t just be engine size or paint colour that car buyers will compare whilst shopping for a vehicle. The connected car’s software will too become a defining selling point.’

But if you think of the frequency of buying a new car versus a new phone, how can the car’s technology keep up with such rapid advances? Who can afford to replace their car every six months?! To combat this, consumers can go back to the car dealer where the apps can be updated every few months. “This makes the vehicle feel like new again” claims Roger “it makes owning a car exciting even when the car itself isn’t brand new.”

What we once called the humble car radio, should now be referred to as a sophisticated infotainment system offering an entire audio experience. Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more complicated! 


Kristie Mercer, breakfast announcer on The Border’s Star 104.9, is reporting for radioinfo at the 2013 USA RadioShow.