In the modern age of information overload, AM broadcasting may be going extinct in modern cars, and safety advocates are sounding the alarm.
Automakers like Tesla, BMW and Ford are opting to cut AM radio from new models, particularly electric vehicles, due to the added expense and added weight of the radios. In addition, the manufacturers claim there are now a variety of ways information is accessible.
But experts are warning that the seemingly archaic technology plays vital role in emergency systems and is the most reliable way to communicate critical safety information to Americans.
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“It literally goes through everything, goes through buildings and the way it’s built, it’s meant for an emergency. It’s why we’ve invested to back it all up all over the country for emergencies,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., told Fox News’ Douglas Kennedy.
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden echoed concerns that without the technology, it will be difficult to inform a large portion of his New Jersey county’s residents of an emergency, pointing to the role AM radio played during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“AM Radio was the way to communicate with our residents up and down the Jersey Shore,” Golden told Kennedy, recalling the destructive hurricane that caused massive power outages and disrupted cell phone service.
Ford Motor Co. is preparing to remove AM radio in most of its “new and updated 2024 models,” a report says, despite concerns from U.S. officials over Americans losing access to safety alerts broadcast over the airwaves.
Gottheimer has called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to require carmakers to install AM radios, arguing that even new technologies cannot replace the reach of an AM signal.
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Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who sits on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has been speaking out against the AM radio purge, noting the emergency-alert system that is broadcasted during natural disasters and other emerging calamities.
Markey said “Broadcast AM radio is an essential part of our emergency alert infrastructure, but the responses to my letter show that far too many automakers are ignoring the critical safety benefits of AM radio.”
“Although many automakers suggested that other communication tools — such as internet radio — could replace broadcast AM radio, in an emergency, drivers might not have access to the internet and could miss critical safety information,” he continued. “The truth is that broadcast AM radio is irreplaceable. As the auto industry rightfully replaces the internal combustion engine with electric batteries, I will continue to work to ensure that automakers maintain access to broadcast AM radio in all their vehicles.”
Even still, manufacturers have added that there are also concerns over alleged interference between electromagnetic frequencies from their motors and AM radio frequencies, which create a buzzing noise and a weak signal.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity offered another perspective while criticizing the push to cut AM radio.
“It’s not complicated to put in a radio system that allows you to have AM FM, Sirius XM, or the ability to plug in your own music from your own phone,” Hannity told Fox News Digital in an interview. “And I think people want more options, not less options. And this would be a direct hit politically on conservative talk radio in particular, which is what most people go to AM radio to listen to.”
“So is there a political component to it? Certainly feels like it,” he added.
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Seven former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrators wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and congressional committees in February asking the U.S. government to seek assurances from automakers that AM radio will remain a feature in vehicles.
“When all else fails, radio stations are often the last line of communications that communities have,” Craig Fugate, the leader of FEMA during the Obama administration, told The Wall Street Journal.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.