Ask Hackaday: Will Your 2030 Car Have AM Radio?

Car makers have been phasing out AM radios in their cars for quite some time. Let’s face it, there isn’t much on AM these days, and electric vehicles have been known to cause interference with AM radios. So why have them? For that matter, many aftermarket head units now don’t even have radios at all. They play digital media or stream Bluetooth from your phone. However, a U.S. Senator, Edward J. Markey, has started a letter-writing campaign to the major car makers urging them to retain the AM radio in their future vehicles.

So does that mean AM lives? Or will the car makers kill it off? The letter requests that the companies answer several questions, including if they plan to discontinue AM or FM radios in the near future and if they support digital broadcast radio.

AM Radio Kit – CC-BY-SA-2.0 by [Joe Haupt]
We must admit we miss having robust AM radio stations with general interest programming. It was exciting to be able to build simple radios and hear something you liked hearing. In addition, it was fun to tune in far away stations at night when propagation could often put distant cities and even countries into your radio receiver. But these days, the AM bands are mostly fringe broadcasters with some sort of political, religious, or non-English programming that doesn’t have the listener base to support an FM station. Before you dash off to the comments to provide your favorite counterexample, sure, there are pockets of more general broadcasting and a few FM translators. There are also some microbroadcasting stations serving limited areas. But the days of high-power, general-interest AM radio stations are pretty much gone.

Lies and Statistics

The letter seems to conflate AM and FM radio, saying things like “AM radio has long been an important source of information for consumers…” This is followed by, “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 90 percent of Americans… listened to AM or FM radio each week…” Our guess is a lion’s share of that 90% was on FM radio. We were surprised, however, to learn that a poll said that 33% of consumers said an AM radio is a “very important” feature in a vehicle. It also claims that FEMA has invested in emergency infrastructure for AM radio stations, making them critical to emergency management plans, although all the quotes from FEMA and other data seem to imply that FM radio is also important.

Why do automakers care? Cost is probably one factor. But, even more pressing is the interference issue. The Senator pointed out that digital audio is less susceptible to EV interference, but — of course — there are few digital radio receivers and stations on the AM radio band.

Our Take

Radio Station KHJ in 1927 – Public Domain

Even the inventor of the modern radio (including FM) thought that supporting both AM and FM together was a stopgap measure until FM took over. While we get that there might be a small percentage of people who rely on AM radio and have a new-ish car, we would be surprised if the number was that large. Then subtract the number of people who have an FM radio either in the car or separately that they could use if necessary. Then the number is probably vanishingly small.

What’s more, is those people are even less likely to have digital broadcast receivers. You could argue that digital stations also broadcast on analog. But remember, the FCC approved all-digital for AM back in 2020. After all, the expanded AM band was supposed to relocate hundreds of stations, but a lack of receivers means a lack of interest and so the actual number of stations in the expanded band is minuscule, especially if you count the ones that are broadcasting in both the expanded band and the traditional band simultaneously. The push for AM stereo died, too, and HD radio seems to be on life support.

AM signals indeed have a long history with civil defense. But it seems incredible that AM radio is vital to the national interest in the year 2022. If my experience is typical, people hardly ever use FM anymore, opting for satellite or online streaming via the mobile network. Of course, the AM radio lobby probably doesn’t agree. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

Featured image: “2008_05_26_car_radios_04” by Doc Searls (!)

167 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: Will Your 2030 Car Have AM Radio?

    1. There would be capability, whether it’s instant availability or stuff that needs a day or two of demothballing, or lashing equipment together is kinda not important, as it could still be first available mass communications. (Obviously if you’re gonna rely on it, ready to go is more desirable, but when your plan A, B and C fail, having kept it in a dusty corner rather than steamrollered it is better than not.)

  1. I live in Canada. One of the things that we are constantly told is that we should have a battery operated radio receiver for emergencies. No statement is made about AM or FM. I have not seen any small reasonably priced battery radios with good reception.
    Theoretically, our cell phones ought to be usable as battery powered radio receivers. However, most people get their phone from their carrier, and the carriers make sure that the phone can not be used as a radio receiver.
    I spoke with a rep from my phone manufacturer, who says that in Canada cell phones can only receive AM signals. They were not able to tell me how to do that.

    1. Hmm. That’s odd. I’ve had Rogers, Fido, Bell, Virgin and Freedom as carriers, and both vendor-provided and unlocked phones. None of the ones that were FM-capable (that is, most of them) ever had the FM receiver locked out.

      I’ve never heard of a cell phone capable of receiving AM broadcast frequencies (0.5-1.6 MHz). Do you have an example?

    2. There have been many smartphones with the ability to receive broadcast radio, except in North America. For some reason that feature gets disabled or is physically not present on what’s supposedly the same model of phone.

      For a while it was a thing to do composite video out via the headphone jack, except in NA. Mid and low end phones typically get less RAM, less storage, lower resolution displays, and even slower / fewer cores CPUs in the NA market. Another thing NA phones never had was analog TV reception. That was a big thing in areas of Asia that used NTSC. We never got multi-SIM phones until recently some phones support one real SIM and one eSIM – but we never saw anything like a phone that supported three physical SIMs and one RUIM. RUIM is the “SIM” for CDMA.

      We get the same with smart TVs. In EU and Asia many of them have DVR capability to record OTA TV to a USB drive. The same models with the same hardware have DVR functions disabled in NA.

          1. Just ask BMW about that – a subscription service for heated seats. Tesla is almost just as bad. Ship all the same hardware, but charge more for the software. Neither of them are the first to do it, but it’s definitely becoming more common.

  2. Regional sized civil emergencies like blizzards, hurricanes, ice storms, can easily take out local FM, TV, Cellular and a lot of “hard line” internet when the wires are above ground somewhere. So an actual fallback rather than a “only slightly less prone to interruption” nudgeback is more useful.

    Worst worst case scenario, super strong EMP event, natural or manmade, you can fly a DC-3 over cities and shovel out gestetnered leaflets showing how to make crystal receivers.

      1. I didn’t say it was locally more survivable. Low power hyperlocal AM might have warped people’s perceptions of what AM can do. “I spit at the forest fire and nothing happened so water bombers are useless.” Put some ooomph behind it and it spans continents.

      2. Umm… Antennas are pretty much built the same these days. Weather is just as likely to take out an FM station as it is an AM station.

        What does make a difference is the propagation of the lower frequency AM stations use. They are less effected by weather or terrain.

        1. Is there some antenna technology I don’t know about, that allows stations operating in the medium wave band to have small antennas? From what I can see, AM is far more susceptible to weather damage because of the tall guyed towers. But then again, in most areas these days, tall guyed towers are used that each host several TV and FM radio stations, so when a tower comes down, it takes out one AM station or several TV and FM stations.

          What I know for sure though, is that when local power goes out, I lose Internet access.

          1. Yes, in fact there are some lower powered AM broadcasts that are currently using small antennas. They’re not as efficient as an antenna cut to 1/4 wavelength of a broadcast AM frequency, but they are still effective. They are able to use small antennas that range between 8 and 50 feet by using loading coils to match.

        2. FM stations typically pump out enough power to melt ice with waste heat.

          Low power AM, not so much.

          Antenna design is based on wavelength more than anything else. Longer wavelength bigger antenna, shorter tower. Shorter wavelength, smaller antenna, taller tower.

          1. For broadcast AM, the tower may be the transmitting antenna. For FM, the tower is used to get the transmitting antenna high enough that receivers can be line-of-sight to the antenna.

          2. Not only that, but it’s not the power, but the power DENSITY that melts ice. That AM antenna is distributing its kilowatts over a considerable area of steel truss, while a typical FM transmission antenna is only a few square meters.

          3. I think something’s not tuned right if they’re melting ice with RF. The FM station I worked at has deicing heaters to be turned on when the VSWR starts going up during winter weather.

        1. Yeah, as if people could magically conjure up the components required to make a foxhole radio work.

          Copper wire, check.
          A razor blade, check.
          Some carbon rods; a pencil, check.
          Sensitive high impedance headphones; nope… don’t use those anymore. The crystal radio set is too weak to power modern low impedance headphones that are built for bass, so you need to live pretty much next to the transmitter to hear anything.

          Meanwhile, a two dollar transistor radio can hear AM/FM for hundreds of miles and everybody knows how to use one. Which one is more useful in an emergency?

          The worst kind of help is a guy standing around, hands in his pocket, explaining what you should be doing rather than actually helping you.

      1. Show me where. His work on wideband FM wasvabout getting rid of sttic and other interference. Since FM doesn’t vary in amplitude, the interference can be eliminated with limiters.

        Just because slope detection coukd ve used later doesn’t mean AM detectors were used in Armstrong’s work.

        But a and b together

        1. For a given RF signal-to-noise ratio, FM can produce a higher audio SNR (above a certain threshold, proportional to the modulation index.) FM does not eliminate noise. If noise is distinguished from interference, FM also dramatically reduces interference, but does not eliminate it.

  3. AM radio can reach farther than FM. This allows it to reach a far greater geographic area. in the case of an emergency. some people turn to their car radio for help information. and if you are in a rural area. (because of the Obana administration ban on Analog radio/TV broadcast there are far fewer {they could not afford the upgrade cost}). Being able to reach a wider geographic area in an emergency is essential.

    1. I am not going to get into the politics but yes, digital tv being “better” as far as more “rural penetration” was a crock of shit. They compared digital reception to where analog reception would look worse, and yes, digital won. But they did not consider that a lot of rural people still watched tv with less than perfect picture quality.

      I was just chatting with my wife the other day about 9/11. I was at work and someone, it may have been me, got the newsflash, but on line video was kind of new, and live was not a thing. We had an old tee vee at work we hooked up a wire out the window as an antenna to see what was happening. I called my wife at home and she was able to tune it on on our tee vee with cable.

      If something like that happened now, it would be all over the net, but folks with just tee vee in rural areas would be stuck with nothing.

    1. Then you have my five year old GM, where the tuner defaults to AM preset 1 when activated (“turned on”, switched to radio from device input, etc) with no way to change it. At least it remembers the proper setting when the vehicle is turned on, and this only effects mode changing to radio.

  4. Every car and phone should be required to receive NOAA weather radio broadcasts in the U.S. If you, the end user, want to disable it on your phone or car do so at your own peril. Many lives could be saved if the warnings were heard. Remove AM, replace with weather radio.

      1. Because Uncle Charlie has a fearsome reputation as an enforcement agency?

        Just don’t step on military/aviation bands or interfere with cell service and he will never, ever get to you. Your transmissions can be heard on the neighbors microwave, nobody cares. Ask me how I know.

        Alibaba linears are _cheap_. The pulse jets of HAM/CB radio.

        1. Okay I don’t know much about overseas regulations, so I can merely speak about my place..

          Here in humble old Germany, we got the American style CB radio frequency allocation in ~1976 or so (12 channel; ch 4-15 AM), before that, CB on 27 MHz was limited to car clubs.. The CB band also was used for ISM use before. The frequency 27,12 was used for remote controlled toys, for example.

          – By Germany, I mean West Germany here. The East Germans weren’t allowed to do this, their “government” was totally paranoid here, afaik. Well, at least they could do amateur radio, according to the old magazines I have. Under supervision. Because amateur radio historically predated the GDR and because it was a good training tool for their youth organization (the FDJ). They likely hoped boys interested in technology would later aim for a radio operator career at the military. 🤷‍♂️ Yeah, strange story. Ok, back to CB..

          FM @ 4 Watts was introduced in the early 80s (1983), we also got 23ch radios originally, before the upgrade to 40 channels.

          Fun fact: Old AM radios could still receive new FM signals by using the fine tune knob. There’s a term for it, but I only remember the German one.

          AM @ 1 Watts remainded limited to the 12 channels (4-15) and required a license (10 DM monthly fee).

          Though export radios/radios from neighbor countries were not limited in this regard. They also had non-standard channels (UK, Poland etc).
          Nowadays, they are switchable (CEPT/national).

          The then-new 40ch/FM-only radios were free to use in all CEPT regions.

          Packet Radio on FM was allowed circa 1994 or so. On channels 24, 25 originally. We also got “data radio” calls signals for that purpose – which were changed multiple times.
          In parts, because they were incompatible to amateur radio software (say, DU55AA, later DAA123). So special software was required. X-Packet, I vaguely remember, was one of the few programs to support the weird CB calls, hi. 🙂

          SSTV was also allowed about the same time, afaik. In Italy, it was very popular, I suppose. Seen many screenshots on the web. Zetagi was/is a popular brand for CB “accessories”, especially those power hungry ones. 😉

          By the mid 90s (’96?), 80 channels for FM were introduced. SSB @ 12bWatts was also officially allowed a few years later, afaik (2011?).

          Okay, I hope I got that right so far. 😅

          1. Any AM radio has a pass band at the frequency it’s tuned to, and naturally the edges of that will have some slope to them. So if you fine tune to place the FM station’s center frequency on that slope, the amplitude of the signal that gets through will depend on its frequency (assuming the RF signal’s amplitude is constant to begin with). A process I’ve heard referred to as ‘slope detection’

          2. A friends neighbor wasn’t reaching out far enough with his crappy CB, so he did some basic research and increased his power by widening his pass band with a soldering iron.

            That still didn’t go out far enough, so he acquired a 1kw linear and hooked it to his screwed up base station. You could hear the interference on the GD microwave.

            After many repeated complaints and much patience, Uncle Charlie (FCC) did f all. So we ninjaed into his yard and put a pin through his coax. His smoke got out. Was funny.

            What regulations?

  5. In my going around to parks doing Park On The Air. All of them anywhere near nuclear power plants will have signs that will have a list of radio stations both AM and FM to tune to if you here the sirens.

    Its also common to see signs along some highways that will say like “When flashing tune to AM for traffic information”

  6. For me simple is best. I can still remember receiving WKDW Buffalo NY in North Bergen New Jersey on a cold winter night. AM may be prone to electrical interference, but it can and does reach a larger geographical area than FM does. There are plenty of TIS (Traffic Information Stations) down on 530kHz and 1610kHz with some even rebroadcasting NOAA weather radio when not being used for something local.
    Being a ham operator, I love broadcast band DXing. There are still “sunset” stations that will go off the air at sunset to keep from interfering with the larger stations. A crystal set I don’t think the modern non-technical
    person would even want to try to build a crystal set with the plephora of online and streaming services
    out there. I DO still listen to AM, and there are 3 stations that are still broadcasting music and haven’t
    gone to the talk show/news format. Then you have AM stations that are simulcasting on FM as well.
    AM isn’t what it used to be, but it is my own humble opinion that AM is still relavent in the digital age.
    Give me a battery and a piece of wire and I can make an AM radio crackle with Morse code.

    1. People I knew when I was a kid seemed to hate the way AM would pick up all this stuff. Lightning crashes, ionospheric fluttering, momentary bursts of far away stations. Being a product of those times, I pretty much ignored AM through the 80s 90s 20-ohs, it had to be FM or nothing.

      But in the last couple of years, I’ve gone back to AM. It’s not about the hi-fidelity audio now (heck, there are even FM stations now that have that swirly-whirly artifacting of low bit-rate digital sampling in their audio sources). Call me strange, I *like* the lightning and the ionosphere and all that stuff, these days.

      Listening to FM was artificial, shutting out as much of physical reality as possible for the sake of the human sourced signal. With AM, yeah, you can hear the news or the 70s music or whatever, but you get this connection to the spectrum at the same time. It’s not birds and bugs, but it’s a kind of nature.

      1. > heck, there are even FM stations now that have that swirly-whirly artifacting of low bit-rate digital sampling in their audio sources

        I’ve been noticing a lot of this, too. It’s even happening on our local independent music station, which I can’t understand. Has something changed in the radio/DJ world that is forcing them to put up with garbage audio quality?

        I wouldn’t be surprised if ad revenue was way down and margins were super thin, but I don’t see how giving up on bit rate saves them meaningful amounts of money. Half-decent audio doesn’t take up that much bandwidth/space…

        1. Most likely they pay some distribution network to re-broadcast the same signal at multiple locations, and they charge you by the kilobyte.

          Same thing happened with digital TV. One old analog channel could host three to five decent DTV channels, but the networks were sold to investment companies to pay for the upgrades and get rid of fixed assets – just buy the broadcasting as a service. The new owners started bean counting and charging fees by the bandwidth, so the TV stations stuffed 10-12 channels in the same mux and the picture went worse than analog had ever been.

  7. The last time I switched my car radio to the AM band was when I went on a double-date to a drive-in movie. It was only then that I discovered my AM band didn’t work at all. That was I think 1985?

    The best use for an AM broadcast station I saw was when Bill Wysock had one of his 50 kW Tesla Coils set up at one of the local transmitter sites. That was maybe 10 or 12 years after the drive in incident.

    I used to live in the Los Angeles market, and remember my grandmother listening to broadcast news on AM. When we kids got our first boom boxes we never listened to AM again. I doubt that more than 3 or 5 percent of US households even have a working portable radio these days, cel phones notwithstanding. Even the one I have out in the garage (somewhere) which also does shortware reception, but I doubt that I have batteries that will fit. We’re pretty much relegated to AA and AAA cells, with the occasional 6LR61 device needed.

  8. It’s not AM but medium wave vs. VHF. Long range at night over the horizon vs. mostly line of sight. AM stereo is superior to what makes FM into stereo which is an amplitude sub-band. Hence FM stereo is noise prone compared to mono FM. HD radio is worse than a joke, the AM band is so noise ridden with HD.

    I haven’t listened much to Coast to Coast lately the only reason I go AM if the only FM doesn’t come in. Then there is The Legend 650AM Nashville still having the Grand Old Opry live. I used to FM DX but the mess of low power religious stations have ruined that. Thank God and all the rest for internet streaming of real radio stations from everywhere. Many changes more to come.

    1. This always confused me as a kid. I’m from Germany and we are referring to Mittelwelle (MW, medium wave) and Ultra Kurzwelle (UKW, ultra shortwave).

      Reading AM and FM on imported radios or newer radios in general was always somehow confusing, because AM and FM are modulation types, not radio bands (wavelengths/frequencies)!

      I mean, sure MW used AM and UKW uses FM..
      But broadcast radio on Langwelle (LW, long wave) and Kurzwelle (KW, short wave) also use AM!

      So naming the bands (AM band, FM band) by their modulation types seems somewhat out of this world. At least to me, at least. Not all Germans are like me, of course. Some aren’t weird. 😂

      1. For all of you wondering, I will make this simple.

        AM – Amplitude Modulation. Utilizes Frequency bandwave technology whereas the radio waves at a certain frequency go out as a wave ( ie; ocean waves in a calm ocean) and are recieved in a wave going down your antenna on a reciever. AM also has the ability for the waveband to bounce off of our atmosphere at night, thus being able to also recieve radio stations from around the world during certain times in the darkness.

        FM – Frequency Modulation.
        Whereas the signal is Modulated in a straight line above and below the frequency selected, thus being able to send a signal by the frequency moving up and down along a certain band. They can’t bend therefore can only transmit and recieve by line of sight. No bending on the atmosphere for this one.

        I hope this helps 🙏

        1. There’s nothing in FM to make it “not bend” – just that the frequency range allocated for FM transmission doesn’t do that. AM goes over the horizon because of the frequency band allocation for it.

  9. I am not a fan of AM, and the last time I listened to broadcast AM was when I was playing with a crystal set. However, keeping an overlapping network of clear channel AM stations alive might be very good in a disaster. By it’s nature FM is local. So say the grid goes out in Texas, some stations may have backup power but that gets both expensive and a lot more to maintain. Figure about a gallon of diesel per hour per 10KW, and figurer an FM station with city wide coverage being about 25KW plus the studio etc. You are in for >30KW would be my guess. So that is 3 gallons an hour, or 72 a day, and figure a 10 day outage, you are looking at 720 gallons of fuel, and that is for one city. On the flip side, at night, I used to be able to tune in WLS in Chicago from my home in central NY. I moved to Tucson AZ as a teen and on the way out programmed one of the old mechanical radio buttons to it as we passed through and honed it as we got further away, and I could pick that station up on the car radio in our old VW beetle from Tucson. Not that I would want to have to depend on fringe reception like that but it would take 100 or more FM stations to cover the same ground as one AM station. I can see AM still having it’s place in emergencies. Morse code is dead too, but most people know SOS. And most people are at least somewhat sensitive to bursts of 3, be it shots, horn beeps, or knocks, being an emergency signal.

    1. I live in northern Illinois USA and the news station is WBBM 780 AM. I try to DX it whenever i go out of the area. Visiting my dad in Tennessee USA and picked it up S7-S9 after 10:00 p.m. CT. Visiting my brother in San Antonio and picked it up about S3 @ 2:00 a.m. CT. As per Wikipedia : “WBBM is a Class A station that broadcasts on a clear-channel AM frequency, powered with 35,000 watts by day and 42,000 watts at night, using a non-directional antenna. Its daytime signal provides at least grade B coverage to most of the northern two-thirds of Illinois (as far south as Springfield) as well as large portions of Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana. Its city-grade coverage reaches as far north as Milwaukee. At night, WBBM can be heard across much of North America under favorable conditions, but is strongest in the Midwest.”

      1. As a kid growing up I listened to WBBM for the CBS Radio mystery theater. I think a local station had it on 9-10 and WBBM had it on 10-11 so I would catch the repeat if I was not passed out.

    1. While we’re at it, wondering about the utility of AM radio in cars, how about that 12V ‘lighter connector’?

      I don’t think the the car I bought in ’19 even had an actual ‘lighter’, but it has the sockets. Holy smokes, those sockets are worrisome things – big enough to stick all manner of objects into, and probably 30A for the taking. It’s a wonder the liability lawyers haven’t eliminated that particular hazard. Granted, 12V is a pretty wimpy push, so you need gobs of amps to get any power from it, and it’s nice to have a power outlet of some kind in the car, but man, that’s a crazy excuse for a connector.

      1. Well, of course it was an expedient adaptation, but i hate things, cz my cell charger doesn’t want to stay in the socket, one of these days ill grt around to making some adaptors to use Anderson connectors, which my ham radio equipped car is full of.

      2. We had a car that still had the lighter in the ashtray and no aux sockets and we do not smoke so the ashtray was the coin tray for back in the days we had toll roads that did not bill you later.. But the fuse kept popping on the 12V port and I finally figured out that dimes could bounce into the 12 socket and short it out.

  10. AM radio has better propagation characteristics due to the lower frequency the AM band resides in. This gives AM an advantage for emergency information delivery. AM radio also has better spectral efficiency which means you can have more stations in the same bandwidth compared to FM.

    For these reasons AM deserves protection.

    1. +1

      AM also is non-destructive.

      Two AM signals can mix without harming each others.
      That’s important depending on the propagation.

      FM is destructive, by comparison.
      Two strong signals destroy each others.
      If a weak and a strong signal collide, the weak signal is eradicated, not just sounding quiter.

      Hence AM is kept on the avionics bands.
      It’s simply much more reliable.

      And no, before mentions says it, SSB is no alternative.

      With the SSB used in practice, there’s no carrier to lock on for an AFC (automatic frequency control) and “Mickey Mouse” voices are unreasonable to the pilots and towers!
      Clear communication without having headaches is mandatory.

      1. “If a weak and a strong signal collide, the weak signal is eradicated, not just sounding quiter.”

        Yep: “FM capture effect, is a phenomenon associated with FM reception in which only the stronger of two signals at, or near, the same frequency or channel will be demodulated.”

  11. Coast to Coast AM .. is on, well AM.

    What needs to happen is a complete “full stop” of all the distracting nonsense, garbage in ‘modern’ automobiles under the guise of “infotainment”. In the modern vernacular “WTF ??”.

    It’s a freakin’ car !!! DRIVE IT – not mess around with touchscreen video games in the dash !

    Something the aviation industry learned decades ago in glass cockpits.
    First things first – FLY THE AIRPLANE !!!! (why modern systems hide un-needed information).
    Driving an automobile should be the same DRIVE THE CAR ! heads up / situational awareness.

    Recently declined a new company vehicle because of the ridiculousness of
    having to navigate multiple menu buttons to adjust fan speed on the heater/ac.
    Old vehicle – go right to a manual physical control – boom ! done !

    Too much progress for the sake of progress is not necessarily a good thing.

    1. Which is why the humble horse makes more and more sense. Initial cost? Probably about on par, now. Cost to own? Again, on par, with gas these days. Idk about insurance. Carbon footprint is probably much lower, especially during manufacture. On renewable resources, the horse is a clear win; no copper, aluminum, or rare earths required. Both will probably get you there for 10-15 years. At EOL, the horse is 100% biodegradable.

      And now, the really good bits..

      The horse does not require an internet connection. The horse does not require a user account, or over-the-air updates. The horse does what it does with no menus to navigate. Response to voice commands and robust obstacle avoidance are standard, with horse. All features are available without tack-on subscription fees.

      Of course, you don’t get a mechanically curated bubble of semi-tropical climate, or that better living through chemistry new car smell, but you do get a different unique smell and plenty of fresh air.

      1. I’m not sure that many people had horses. They needed a place to store them, a place to exercise them, food and a place to store it. Expensive.

        The rise of public transit is an indicator. For the masses that didn’t have horses. And as cars took over, municipalities bought bus companies to keep them going.

  12. What has killed AM radio? Poor quality content. Poor quality radios that make the listening experience a headache. Burying the ability to tune to a radio station on an automotive display screen a chore. Mainstream America wants to listen to their MP3 playlist, streaming, and satellite. FM is on it’s way out as well. Tune into an AM station on a recent model vehicle and you hear a mushy mess. What a difference when you tune to an AM station on an old portable GE SuperRadio. Remember Am Stereo of the 1980’s? How about IBOC (HD) AM radio that sounded like a bad cellphone call once you got more than 10 miles from the AM transmitter. The general population no longer listens to radio like it did in the 20th century. This means when the government wants to warn the population of imminent danger they have to turn to blasting out the warning to cell phones, but the public can also disable that feature. Local newspapers are a thing of the past or an empty shell of their former self. Perhaps this is why so many people walk around in a daze and when some major thing, building, act of nature happens in their backyard are totally clueless.

    1. These Marketing Types all do the same thing over and over–use a gimmick, like some new technology with all the buzzwords to prop up their failing media outlet without addressing the root cause–It’s The Content!
      Give me a good reason to listen to your programs and I will, no matter what the delivery method.
      It can be AM,FM, SW even LW, or a digital medium, but make it worthwhile.

  13. I thought AM was disabled in the Netherlands, but there are still a few private transmitters with a max 100W power, and one that does 1kW (but currently shut down due to storm damage). However, our country is so flat and amall that 6 FM transmitters are enough to cover the country.

    I regularly listen to AM when there are thunderstorms though.

  14. Electric vehicles and utility poles emit unintended RF that shows up very clearly on AM. Getting rid of AM is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors trick to dismiss the blatant FCC Part 15 emissions violations. AM has a future but it is a digital one not an analog one.

    1. “AM has a future but it is a digital one not an analog one.”

      AM is an modulation type.

      You mean the medium wave band (MW), I suppose
      .
      Or more precisely your “AM band” around 1 MHz.

      Europe, Asia, Africa: 531–1602 KHz; 9 kHz spacing
      Australia/New Zealand: 531–1701 KHz; 9 kHz spacing
      North and South America: 530–1700 Khz; 10 kHz spacing

      Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium_wave

    1. Bingo! I live in Nebraska and the entire central part of the USA has AM broadcast stations that alive and well with classic stations, local news broadcasts, cattle market reports, and all kind of information that we can get while out in the fields farming our land. It has relevance for us out here.

      1. Double bingo! BITOD, listened to Chicago WLS in military transport from Chanute to downhill on the Eisenhower grade out of Denver where it got blanked but picked up KNX LA 50miles further along

  15. Internet is much more vulnerable to failure in a large scale event. Too many points in the chain that need to work. Good ole AM radio is the simplest and most reliable. Additionally it doesn’t take too much skill to build a low power AM radio transmitter. If things were bad enough we might have to do that. Junk bin parts can build AM transmitter and reciever.

  16. The problem is that the Long Wave and Medium Wave bands are full of noise. The noise doesn’t just come from electric cars. It comes from many places: Variable Frequency Drives in washing machines, and HVAC, switching mode supplies (which also make loads of noise), poorly shielded computers, Solar Panel Inverters, and so forth.

    The issue is so bad that many regulatory authorities, including the US Federal Communications Commission are overwhelmed with all the noise and have pretty much given up chasing down the noise sources. Add that to a series of absolutely terrible technology policy blunders by regulatory authorities regarding the AM Broadcast band, and you can see why most governments just want these bands to die. And to be blunt, it may not be worth the social cost of rescuing the spectrum from sloppy manufacturing practices that were allowed to go on far too long.

    That said, the argument for low infrastructure broadcast communications is not wrong. The use of MW for short, groundwave communications is a stupid idea. It only makes more noise to bounce off the ionosphere. Use VHF or even UHF spectrum for that purpose. Software Defined Radios are cheap to build and cheap to set up. If we had presets for listening to NOAA weather, and local broadcasts for parking information on large events or airports, that’s reasonable. Frankly, those sorts of broadcasts are probably best done with digital formats that can be displayed in most car dashboards.

    The radio spectrum is a mess. It has had generations of misguided and stunningly ignorant policy made on it by politically appointed attorneys, not engineers. We need to rethink how we farm out spectrum and what services those old transmitters can be used for. The debacle with removing the AM broadcast band from car radios is just a symptom, not the problem.

    1. Ugh. I hit send too soon. In the Third paragraph it should have readUse VHF and UHF spectrum for groundwave communications. MW should be used with NVIS propagation for a more regional reach with fewer stations.

    2. The noise is true, but..

      Synchronous AM detection can fix most these problems.
      By generating a synthetic carrier wave in the radio itself, the noise is greatly reduced.

      Unfortunately, there are no chip one-chip receivers with synchronous detection.

      With modern SDR technology, AM Sync Detection is easily possible and could breath new life into AM. Without losing compatibility with classic technology.

      Just check out WebSDR of University of Twente.
      It has an option for synchronous detection.

      Fun facts:
      – The glorious SSB is just crippled AM 😁
      – All AM receivers can receive FM (the modulation type) due to the detector ‘s selectivity
      – Early FM/VHF receivers were really just AM receivers

      1. It can help, yes. But the fuss factor is real and it is not easy to work with. I know. I have a decent SDR and I use all the advantages I can. But there are still noise sources that invade the broadcast band. Knob twiddling is not something you do when driving a car. Nor is this something most consumers do with their radios at home. They want it to just work.

        The reality is that while you CAN do better most people don’t have the patience, motivation, or technical background to do it.

        1. Ah, I see.

          You can try to listen to Digital Radio Mondiale then (aka DRM).

          There’s a software named DREAM that can use a direct conversion receiver (DC) connected to line-in of a soundcard (real or virtual).
          It can also demodulate AM. Beware, you need the EXE with the voice codec built-in..

          A 7 KHz IF is okay, 12 KHz recommended.

          Years ago, I built myself a simple tube receiver (DC type) with an EF95 (aka 6AK6) battery tube to receive RTL radio on 3995 KHz. A 4 MHz crystal and a variable capacitor was all that’s needed.

          Anyway, a modern SDR can do that with ease. All it needs is an HF up converter, maybe. The popular RTL-SDR chip starts working at ~25 MHz or so.

    3. These super efficient LED lights we have these days can put out surprising amounts of HF noise. I have kept 60W incandescent at my bench, in addition to some nice bright LED units. If I’m soldering or tinkering on something, the LEDs are superior, but when it’s shortwave listening time, the LEDs must die. The hot tungsten is so much quieter.

  17. “these days, the AM bands are mostly fringe broadcasters with some sort of political, religious, or non-English programming that doesn’t have the listener base to support an FM station.”

    Those are called ‘under-served’ market segments, and they have a reliable customer base, just like OTA broadcasters with foreign language, religion, and infomercial programming.

    I see value serving the non-English speaking audiences, and so do the advertisers that support those stations. Remember, the US does NOT have a national language, so let’s be a little more supportive of our recent, and not so recent, non-English speaking neighbors.

  18. A big reason why digital AM and FM, and AM stereo haven’t had big uptake by manufacturers and the public is the FCC and other government agencies didn’t do anything to push it. No “Analog radio is going away so you have to change to digital.” like was done with the NTSC analog to ATSC digital TV change.

    No government mandate for radios to receive digital broadcasts like they did with televisions and Closed Caption decoders. IIRC it’s all color televisions with a screen size 13″ and larger must have Closed Caption capability.

    1. They had mandates here in northern Europe, a set date when analog radio would’ve been wiped out. The only country that stuck with the idiotic digital radio was Norway. What stopped it? Well, it would’ve meant that all receiving and broadcasting equipment would need to be replaced and it could’ve been held hostage to ridigulous licensing fees. Don’t know if that happened in Norway, but if all countries would’ve changed the chance of that would’ve been bigger.

      People didn’t buy the digital radios even with the mandate. I would’ve just stopped listening to the radio, if that BS had flown. Now i listen to the radio when i drive or i’m in the garage. Win-win.

      There’s been enough trouble with digital TV. And pretty much none of the promised features of DTV have come true. Why? Because they cost lots of money to produce and are still just gimmick at best, just like 3D TV.

  19. I’m surprised only two comments mention morse code. As someone else pointed out, most folk may not know it anymore, but S.O.S. is still well-known. And if shit really hits the fan, I bet folk could learn.
    Why on earth do we keep destroying our infrastructure?

    1. I ask myself that question many times over the years.

      Best I’ve come up with is based on a line from Blazing Saddles: a bunch of business majors (marketing, advertising, and MBAs — you know the type) sat around a table, and someone said, “We’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen! Harumph! Harumph!”

      They collectively decided, every few years, to make sure our technology that simply works is made obsolete by their new, “better” tech, e.g satellite radio. Even though they’ll have to [re]build the systems from scratch (or maybe that’s the goal), and every consumer will have to buy a new system to use it (cha-ching), they need that excuse to keep the money flowing.

      Oh, and they can charge a monthly subscription fee? Even better! An endless revenue stream! /’s

      Another reason might be that, at least here in the USA, we are awful at maintenance. Of anything. But especially critical infrastructure. Because it’s not the “new hotness,” and no one is dumping piles of cash into their upkeep. Not even governments, which typically give contracts to the lowest bidders.

      1. “I ask myself that question many times over the years.”

        Ever had a “you can’t stop progress” discussion with someone?
        Yeah those people, kind of like we do with old buildings.

        1. I suppose the difference is infrastructure.

          AM/FM radio are infrastructure, just like roads, power lines or water pipes.
          Ideally, they last very long and stey universal.

          Modulation types like AM/FM/SSB are liken open protocols, also.
          They can be implemented by various technologies.

          For AM reception, there are multiple technological principles.
          Crystal radio, regenerative, direct conversion, superhet etc.

          On top of that, different technologies can be used.
          The crystal detector, the glas diode, the transistor (bi-polar), the electron tube, the fiel-effect transistor..

          By contrast, modern digital radio requires a special piece of software, a codec. Which is patented, proprietary too often.

          Just have a look at D-Star, C4FM, DMR in amateur radio. It’s all proprietary. There’s no free codec installed in commercial amateur radios. It’s a closed thing.

          That’s why FM on the VHF/UHF repeater is still in use, among other things.
          FM is the only way of making a cintact between a DMR walki-talkie and a C4FM walkie-talkie.

          It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. Free codecs like FreeDC/Codec2 exist, are available as source code. But they aren’t installed in commercial radios.

          That’s sad, but true.

          Analogue radio lasted 100 years, DAB not even 20! DAB+ is incompatible to it.

          Now imagine the future of digital radio!
          New radio standards every ~15 years. Billions of radios around the world that end up in landfills.

          Is that really progress?
          One step forward, two backwards?

  20. I remember a law was passed in the 1950s or 1960s requiring every new car came with an AM radio standard for Civil Defense reasons. Has that law been repealed? My first car in 1976 only had AM. I had to buy a new radio with FM and put in stereo speakers. Many business locations specialized in that in those days.

    When driving I have AM on probably 70% of the time and FM the rest. Out here in the country decent FM music stations are rare. One just switched over to 100% Christmas music a couple of weeks ago. Way too early for that.

    As a ham I appreciate the value of the LF frequency for wide area coverage. I hope they do not eliminate AM. When I buy my next car, I may have to buy an aftermarket radio that has AM. Just the opposite of my first car. But, without a mandate to include AM, the manufacturers will do nothing to limit RFI on those frequencies.

      1. From that link which contains a listing of the 77 stations, MOST of them being AM stations:

        “The National Public Warning System, also known as the Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations, are a network of 77 radio stations that are, in coordination with FEMA, used to originate emergency alert and warning information to the public before, during, and after incidents and disasters. PEP stations are equipped with additional and backup communications equipment and power generators designed to enable them to continue broadcasting information to the public during and after an event.”

    1. Interesting; I was beger awre of any such law, but that doesn’t mean it didnt exist. In 1964 my mom bought a new chevy II, and deleted the radio and seat belts(money was a little tight for us then). This was before seat belts were mandated; If a radio had been mandated, I’m sure the factory could not have deleted it. Not being aware of any law at the time, I never thought about it. But I missed the music, so being a radio guy , I scrounged up an old tube AM radio and installed it myself.

    2. I don’t think there was an obligation to have a radio in the car.

      There certainly was a rule for hams about monitoring a Conelrad frequency, and going off the air if there was an alert. So lots of schemes to do it automatically. But the rule was onky in place for a few years.

  21. Al says, “Let’s face it, there isn’t much on AM these days…” Hold it right there. Our AM market is well served and varied. We have a combination of religeous, talk show and Jazz stations. Seems like there is plenty of interest in AM broadcast band here in Louisiana.

  22. PBS is not a fringe station. We enjoy PBS broadcasts when we are traveling in range. Sirius and Internet cost money. AM is Free. FM doesn’t work well on the road as we are constantly trying to tune into a new station. AM works for much larger distances. Too bad AM is dying out. Luckily I plan on keeping my vehicles for a long time. With their AM radios.

      1. I think there is some valuable stuff on PBS, you just have to pick and choose, rather than just throw the baby out with the bathwater. I suppose it might depend on one’s political/sociological slant, as it probably attracts more liberal types, who aren’t necessarily trying to monetize everything they come into contact with. But if you live in the center, you can probably find some good in most things.

  23. AM radio stations have a much longer range than FM stations.
    Relying on Radio station brodcast via the mobile phone network OR Internet is much more risky than relying on a AM transmitter. mobile phone network and/OR internet has many moving parts and therefore is easy to fail in times of disaster – often from infrastructure damage in towers and or cables as well as power otages any where in the transmission chain. AM Radio stations normally have diesel generator backup for their emergency power and they would be given priority of supply from the electricity supply company. ( In my opinion as a qualified Electronics engineer – Not puting radios in electric cars is a largely a cost saving measure and I would say lazy engineers . Engineers could reduce EMI if they worked on it and used some innovation. )

  24. Another thing that seems to be forgotten:

    AM receivers can “hear” thunderstorms and other electric radiation phenomena.

    So it makes sense to leave an AM reveiver installed.
    Even if it’s just a dirt cheap one-chip radio!

    Removing AM reception causes more trouble than it’s worth.

    Just think about it!
    In emergency, an AM transmitter is easily built.

    It’s just an oscillator with a microphone in between.
    In fact simple transmitters do generate AM+FM mixed modulation.

    And at a low frequency of ~600 KHz, even in a post apocalyptic world long range AM transmitters could be built.

    Using multiple techniques, if needed.
    A spark gap transmitter can generate noise that an AM radio can pick up.

    Just look up articles about “damped waves”.

    Originally, morse telegraphy was done via sounding telegraphy, not CW.

    The transmitters, say, on Titanic didn’t use CW (continuous wave, undamped waves), but “clicky” radio signals that could be heard in a conventional crystal radio.

    1. Ahh good ol’e “Dead And Buried”.

      I’ll give it this much: it has better audio quality than AM. Jury’s out as to whether it is truly better than FM, 32kbps HE-AAC+ has much ringing artefacts when listened to on any half-decent stereo system… 48kbps is barely passable … ho—ver the —ts —a killer.

  25. I don’t see anyone pointing out the obvious reason that AM is important – distance. FM is line of sight and requires high power to get decent distance. AM, on the other hand, is capable of great distances at much lower power. In emergency situations, AM (including shortwave) is a much more reliable signal than is FM. Plus, digital signals are either there or not. There is no in between. Anyone who has watched the new (relatively speaking) digital OTA broadcasts knows, if the signal degrade due to wind blowing the antenna, trees, or whatever, the channel doesn’t just get a little snowy. You lose it altogether. In an emergency, a staticy signal would still be a much better option than a dicey digital signal that you may or may not even be able to receive.

  26. Some are reporting that AM is getting pulled out of cars because electric cars generate too much interference for AM radios to work. I can’t speak for everybody, but my 2015 VW e-Golf comes with AM radio and it works just fine.

    1. Actually listening to AM radio sucks. It is buzzy, hissy, and fatiguing as hell. Every time I go to my parents house I can tell instantly they have the radio on right when I walk in because of the background hiss. It’s nauseating.
      Also- this nonsense about emergency communications. Honestly ask yourself when the last time you can remember or even have heard of from a friend of a friend someone say “and thanks to my AM radio and absolutely no other information source, because they were all broken, I got timely emergency information.” About never. And this from an amateur radio operator.

        1. That’s okay, to err is human.

          Speaking of mistakes, I forgot to mention something.

          Digital radio via satellite can have a nice quality, due to the high bandwidth availability per transponder.

          Back in the 80s/90s, here in Germany, digital radio via the DFS Kopernikus satellites was a dream to audiophiles, I heard.

          So a new digital technology isn’t always bad, even to critics like me. It could be excellent, in fact, if lossless codecs were being used. Like good old PCM (WAVE) or FLAC.

          And if sampling rates were high. 96 KHz minimum, 24-Bit stereo (hey, it’s 2022 we can afford it).

          Unfortunately, it’s all about quantity, not quality.
          And that’s the sad thing about it.

          It’s a bit like in the 80s/90s, when most people consumed low-fi VHS and only a few film lovers could get access to reasonable quality through Laserdiscs.

          Gratefully, the Blu Ray disc is a bit more common these days and has acceptable quality. Thanks to not having to share its storage capacity with little to no other material.

          1. It CAN sound good. But here in the US it does not. There is something off about the codecs used by SiriusXM that makes listening to them fatiguing, at least for music. Not enough bits, most likely; they have prioritized quantity over quality.

      1. Creg, you’re not wrong per se, I think. Though it also depends on the receiver and the bandwidth of the AM signal.
        The AM receivers in airplanes have a crystal clear reception, for example.

        So AM itself could be awesome, if the bandwidth was wisely selected. Say, 12 or 15 KHz.
        Those 9 KHz / 10 KHz we have aren’t enough, simply.
        With two side bands and a carrier, about ~4 KHz can be transmitted.
        Unfortunately, lower frequencies sound friendly, but the information is in the high parts of human voice. Kids and females are especially disadvantaged here, due to their higher voices.

        The FM broadcast band (VHF) has other issues. There channel-separation for Stereo FM is poor, the channels are too small, the dynamic range is poor (the main audience are usual casual listeners in cars, not music lovers with their headphones on). FM radio sounds “thin”, metallic very often.

        They also have the nonse with emphasis/deemphasis going on. Especially in two-way radio applications. If phasemodulation and frequency modulation technologies are intermixed, theboutcome doesn’t sound as nice. – Newer radios, especially from the east, use PM rather than traditional FM, because it’s easier to implement (less sophisticated filters needed).

        However, FM also has pros over digital radio. FM is mostly immune against the doppler effect. So unless you’re driving very fast, FM reception stays stable.

        Digital radio must use complicated technologies such as QAM (?) to add error correction etc. to get similar results (which it doesn’t often). Digital radio can have compression artifacts, like a badly compressed MP3.

        Also, many digital radio stations are being multi-plexed. So one radio programme steals bandwith of another one. The news speaker gets less fidelity than the pop music on another.

        The same nonsense is done with DVB-T2 here in Europe. You really see motion artifacts, because the focus is to cramp as much TV channels into one radio signal. By comparison, analogue PAL or PAL Plus via terrestrial aerial had much higher picture quality, despite the much lower resolution.

  27. By the way, I’m old enough to remember when the Honda CVCC had an AM radio as standard equipment.
    And aftermarket radio manufacturers complained that stifled their business.

    As someone who listens to religious AM, I look forward to more years of listening pleasure.

  28. Well, here in Brisbane we just lost a heritage radio station on the AM band … the transmitter is still there, but instead of the “classic hits” station it once broadcast, it now is 24/7 sports yappety yap. Admittedly I mainly listened to it on DAB+ rather than AM, but it was also nice to just turn an AM radio on if I wasn’t in DAB+ range, or if I was in a car (mobile DAB+ is a crapshoot).

    Some of the announcers have gone over to a once rival station, their morning crew and music director have gone over to a news talk-back station.

    Previously I used to have a cron job to unmute the radio at 5:30AM on a weekday, shut off at 9:00AM for morning stand-up, then me turn it back on afterwards and have it shut off in the evening at bed time… now it’s on at 5:30, off at 9:00AM, and the rest of the day it’s my own music collection.

    Said music collection has actually grown too because even though some of the old announcers I listened to have mostly taken their show over to the new station largely unchanged, there’s a lot of stuff the old station used to play that they don’t get the same opportunity to do now. Bob Seger has a valid point when it comes to “new music”.

    I don’t drive, so none of this will affect me directly … however I often have to help those who do with their in-car stereo systems. One thing that is a big factor is how easily one can swap out the stereo system if the stock one doesn’t do what you need.

    A friend of ours has a car stereo whose UI encoder has gone faulty — you need to press the encoder to turn the radio on/off or interact with its menus, but the encoder has developed a fault and so it no longer registers a press when you press it unless you pull the knob off and press the shaft directly. But, Mazda, in their wisdom, have a completely custom-form-factor radio which looks neigh on impossible to remove let alone replace. I could have that faulty encoder fixed in 5 minutes if I could get the head unit out — but it’s not obvious how it is removed.

    Now, this is a conventional AM/FM radio and CD player, it has Bluetooth capability, and it might be able to do MP3, not sure on that one. Suppose all the AM and FM stations were to be shut down, what then? Rely on a DAB+ receiver inside the vehicle broadcasting over a pocket FM transmitter? Burn up mobile data on a mobile phone? Sounds like a lot of fuss just to be able to listen to a radio station.

    Conversely, supposing a car bought today pulled the same stunt: if that set didn’t do AM and you needed it to receive that, you might be up for hell replacing it to get what you need.

    1. You can probably find the info the web to remove the radio, or check with your local dealer or car audio shop; most will spend a few minutes with you in the interest of potential customer goodwill, or just because people tend to be friendly. Another cheap hack in this case might be to pull the knob off and insert a small piece of metal or plastic in the knob shank to keep the knob from bottoming out before the shaft is sufficiently depressed. I’ve used this hack when controls were expensive or difficult to replace.

    2. What make/model? there are myrads of how to’s about removing factory head units, installing aftermarket radios, behind the fancy bezel, 99% you’ll find a single or double din cage.

  29. All I can say is that you lead a quite restricted life. Nearly everyone I know listens to AM broadcast radio at least a few times as week in Orange County, CA.

    As has been said earlier, unless you are living in a dense urban area, FM coverage is very poor. This is mostly due to poor propagation of 88-108MHz signals.

    If you were to drive through the central US (flyover country to the hipsters), AM is the only mode that works to provide continuous coverage. FM stations exist, but are often low power with tiny coverage areas.

    Streaming services are of little use to me because they fail to work where and when I need them. If cars don’t have AM radios in 2030, then I probably will retrofit a proper radio and remove anything that depends on an internet connection.

  30. Here in the US, AM radio still has a role to play in distributing news and safety information. Many big cities have an AM station that is all news 24/7 or at least all news most of the day (with the ability to immediately cut over to news coverage if needed). People tune in for news headlines, weather reports, and traffic information, all of which repeat continuously. Those stations have a large coverage area: at least a 50 mile radius during the day (100 miles or more in some cases) and hundreds of miles at night. And unlike FM, there are no holes in the coverage caused by terrain or buildings.

    A few notable examples I am familiar with: WBZ-AM in Boston (1030), WCBS-AM in New York (880), WBBM-AM in Chicago (780).

    Losing those stations would take away an important resource for getting out information when something bad happens.

    1. “A few notable examples I am familiar with: WBZ-AM in Boston (1030), WCBS-AM in New York (880), WBBM-AM in Chicago (780).”

      Also KYW news radio, Philadelphia, AM 1060. When I was younger, I listened to all of those at night in the US Mid-Atlantic region!

  31. Or you could drive some LED PCB with a linear driver instead of switch-mode.
    Although I hear you can buy well-filtered powersupplies at amateur radio shops. Meaning you can use those to drive a LED module without any noise too of course.
    No need per se for old tungsten stuff that eats power and gets too hot.

  32. Oh excuse me, I posted a reply to greenbit in regards to tungsten lamps but I forgot the reply functionality doesn’t work for me.
    The reason for that is that when I enable all scripts on HaD then the whole input box disappears so I can only use it with some scripts disabled which also seems to kill the ability to post as a reply.. shrug.

  33. I live in Fargo, North Dakota and I work as a broadcast engineer for a cluster of stations, including an AM. I think that AM radio is important, especially in the more rural parts of our state. As you head out west, the number of FM stations in range dwindles down to just one or two but AM stations are still plentiful.

    I know a person from Oakes, ND and there exists just a single local FM (and it’s a translator!) and nothing else on that band for the next fifty miles in any direction. The AM band is a totally different story though, with 20+ stations from over a hundred miles away still coming in clearly and providing news, sports, and music from country to adult contemporary. With cell coverage being spotty at best in these parts of the state too, AM really is an important thing to have. Oakes is far from the most rural this state can get as well, there are many places where there isn’t a single FM for many many miles.

    I think that a lot of these car manufactures and people, especially from outside the US, forget how rural parts of this country can be. In the midwest especially, you have huge regions of sparsely populated land where AM is still a very important thing to have.

  34. FM radio is only good for about 15-30 miles of driving and has annoying clicks for the last 5 miles. AM can work for hundreds of miles and I can listen to it until the noise is as large as the signal unless another station or power lines overpower it.
    I find new spoken content is best to keep me alert for long drives and AM is the best place to find that.
    I used to listen to KGO (810 San Francisco) while driving at night all over Oregon and Washington until they slowly changed their hosts to lunatics. I have listened to Coast to Coast a few times over the years but it quickly gets into paranormal and aliens and I’d rather not listen to anything. Public radio used to be good and I still sometimes like the music, but as soon as someone speaks, they usually say something crazy so I have to turn it off.
    I tried satellite radio 13 years ago on a 12 hour drive in a rental. I found it like cable.. lots of channels but nothing I want so I just keep changing the channel. I did find one channel that was acceptable but I started getting repeated shows. It was worse on the way home 3 days later because everything was a repeat.

  35. To the people that talk about FM-poor areas: Should the comparison not be cell coverage v AM, since people all run spotify and such? And also use the internet to get news. Or how is that these days? Is FM used a lot?

    Also phones get alert messages from the ‘authorities’ don’t they? When there is cell coverage and a disaster.

    1. “all use Spotify and such”
      It annoys me when people assume that how they do something is universal.
      Also, treating Internet-based services like infrastructure is a path to disaster.

    2. It’s often the same places that are FM-poor and cell-poor. Not enough population density to support either. So it’s AM or satellite, and satellite is useless for local news and weather. (SiriusXM does have some of that for major cities but not for remote areas.)

  36. I simply cannot believe that no commenter yet has pointed out what was in the front of my mind by the time I finished reading the title: The near total nationwide monopoly that the political right enjoys regarding the tone and tenor of opinions offered on AM radio. Right (and far right, and furthest right so right it almost wraps around into Stalinism) wing talk radio is MASSIVE. Now, i’ll totally admit that its rather inconvenient to my thesis that Markey is the one trying to stop the death of the AM car radio. Perplexing. But I chalk it up to he’s pretty old and probably his aides do most stuff, and he hasn’t thought it through. He should STFU. Can you imagine? They would lose half the wattage of their (bwom – bwom – BWOM) control signal infrastructure! Picture dazed looking republicans, arriving at work after their commute, blinking, looking around, confused and a little scared, trying to remember what they’re so ANGRY about.. Oh, Markey, you well intentioned old goat.. FAIL! and fail decisively. For the very survival of the republic.

    1. Well, first of all they probably didn’t talk about it because he already mentioned it though in a much more PC manner.

      “But these days, the AM bands are mostly fringe broadcasters with some sort of political, religious, or non-English programming that doesn’t have the listener base to support an FM station. ”

      AM does have an advantage in that it can achieve distance without infrastructure such as satellites and repeaters. That could be important in a very wide-scale emergency. Basically WWIII prep. So though I hope we never need it there might actually be a reason to keep it around.

      As for your right wingers (I have guesses but don’t know for sure what BWOM stands for)… I doubt that many even of them are tuned into AM. They can find that same stuff on FM or Satellite. I’d say they would stream it via a cellphone but that’s not really the right generation.

  37. Oh, are the new electric cars causing AM interference? Shouldn’t they have to shield that? Section 15 and all that? Why are they given special dispensation?

    Sorry, but AM must stay if the government is at all serious about data transport to listeners post disaster scale event. Distance and power required to reach that distance is key as to why it’s superior. Sure, it’s not high fidelity, but when I want to know where to go to get food or water I don’t care if the signal is pure, I want a signal that is THERE.

    1. Why would you expect that? Have you looked at the electronics market in the last 20 years? It isn’t enforced against any of the LED lights*, wallwarts or other cheap electronics our markets, homes, streets and landfills are flooded with today. Why would EVs be held to any standards?

      * – Nothing against LED lights or EVs as a concept, just that most of what’s available on the market has had all the RF supression Muntzed out of it and the LEDs themselves as well as any resistors are under-spec’d to fail and make you buy a replacement.

  38. I have HD radio in my pickup, I rarely listen to am anymore only because the two major new stations are broadcast also on HD subchannels in stereo. The rural area I grew up in during 60-80s only had two am stations, and the low power station from the college in the 80s. Very few people I know have satellite radio though my radio has Bluetooth and I can stream Pandora or iHeart from my phone but I rarely do it’s just easier to have the radio and I switch to about five or six channels avoiding commercials. my sister has an iPod in her car that she plays her music from though it ever few hours looses connection and has to be restarted. Mine also plays mp3 cds. There are large areas between Phoenix and Southern Colorado that radios and phones do not work.

  39. My car radio will likely have AM. It will have it because “hopefully” by then I will have finally gotten around to building my own Pi based radio with either a wide range SDR or one of those magic SI### chips.

    Will I ever listen to the AM broadcast band? Probably not since it’s basically the same as watching Fox News on a TV with a broken backlight.

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