By Victor Reklaitis
Lobbying group for car makers criticizes the bill: 'Congress has never mandated radio features in vehicles'
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and other U.S. lawmakers have rolled out a bill this week that would require car companies to have AM radio in their new vehicles, as the lawmakers aim to end the growing trend of electric vehicles getting made without that feature.
"AM radio is a critical bulwark for democracy, providinga platform for alternativeviewpoints and the ability for elected officials to share our efforts with our constituents," Cruz said in a statement Thursday.
Political pundit Sean Hannity made a similar point last month, saying leaving AM radio out of new EVs is a "direct hit politically on conservative talk radio."
Markey, meanwhile, talked up the importance of the safety alerts that are broadcast over AM radio, echoing a point made by seven former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrators in a letter earlier this year.
"For decades, free AM broadcast radio has been an essential tool in emergencies, a crucial part of our diverse media ecosystem and an irreplaceable source for news, weather, sports and entertainment for tens of millions of listeners," Markey said in a statement. "Car makers shouldn't tune out AM radio in new vehicles or put it behind a costly digital paywall."
Some automakers have skipped having AM radio in their EVs, saying AM signals are subject to interference from those vehicles' motors.
Markey said in March that eight car makers -- out of 20 that the senator contacted -- told him they have removed broadcast AM radio from their EVs. The eight were BMW , Ford (F), Mazda , Polestar , Rivian (RIVN), Tesla (TSLA), Volkswagen and Volvo .
Ford also plans to stop putting AM radio in most new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2024, according to a Detroit Free Press report.
Other backers of the new bill, called the AM for Every Vehicle Act, are Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat; Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican; Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat; Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat; J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican; and Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican.
The measure also has been rolled out in the U.S. House of Representatives, where its supporters include Reps. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat; Tom Kean, a New Jersey Republican; Rob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and son of Sen. Menendez; Bruce Westerman, an Arkansas Republican; and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a Democrat from Washington state.
"I would think that if Elon Musk has enough money to buy Twitter and send rockets to space, he can afford to include AM radio in his Teslas," Gottheimer said in a statement, referring to the Tesla CEO who also leads SpaceX. "Instead, Elon Musk and Tesla and other car manufacturers are putting public safety and emergency response at risk."
Tesla didn't respond to a request for comment, but a trade group for car makers criticized the AM for Every Vehicle Act.
"Mandating AM radios in all vehicles is unnecessary. Congress has never mandated radio features in vehicles ever before," said the Alliance for Automotive Innovation in a statement.
"Auto makers remain 100 percent committed to ensuring drivers have access to public alerts and safety warnings through the Integrated Public Alerts and Warning System (IPAWS) system," the industry group added, referring to a key FEMA system that the alliance said can distribute warnings in a number of ways, including by internet-based radio or satellite radio.
"The point is this: whether or not AM radio is physically installed in vehicles in the future has no bearing on the various methods of delivering emergency communications that alert the public. This is simply a bill to prop up and give preference to a particular technology that's now competing with other communications options and adapting to changing listenership."
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May 18, 2023 16:43 ET (20:43 GMT)
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