Ford Decides It Won’t Kill AM Radio After All

Ford is changing course on AM radio.

In a tweet today, CEO Jim Farley announced that the company was backing down from its decision to launch new vehicles without AM radio broadcast capabilities. Instead, all 2024 Ford and Lincoln models will be able to tune in to AM radio. And for the two electric vehicles launched without AM radio capabilities, a software update would be pushed to restore it.

Automakers are excluding AM radio from their electric vehicles, in particular, citing possible electromagnetic interference with an EV powertrain. AM, which stands for amplitude modulation, differs from FM, or frequency modulation, based on how the carrier wave is modulated or altered. Unlike frequency, amplitude can be affected by noise emitted by electrical devices, including smartphones, televisions, computers, and yes, electric vehicles. The problem is when the radio picks up the interference, which can lead to distortion and crackling.

Car manufacturers generally view AM radio as an outdated technology, arguing that there are other technologies such as Internet streaming, HD radio on FM bands, or some apps that provide AM content that will make up for the absence of AM radio in vehicles.

Automakers are excluding AM radio from their electric vehicles, in particular, citing possible electromagnetic interference with an EV powertrain.

Farley said that Ford would continue to explore these new technologies, even as it reinstalls AM radio in its vehicles. “[W]We will continue to innovate to offer better in-vehicle entertainment and emergency notification options in the future,” he said in his tweet.

Several automakers have come out in favor of removing the AM radio from their cars, including BMW, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo. And the Zero Emissions Transportation Association, which lobbies on behalf of electric vehicle manufacturers, argued that legislation mandating AM radio would “slow down innovation and reduce consumer preference.”

But supporters of the bill say AM radio is irreplaceable. AM radio operates at lower frequencies and longer wavelengths, allowing it to pass through solid objects and travel further than other radio waves, a characteristic not shared by FM transmissions. FEMA uses AM radio to broadcast critical safety alerts to the public, they note.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), a cosponsor of the legislation, applauded Ford’s decision to keep AM radio in its cars. “Ford’s turnaround reflects a belated realization of the importance of AM radio, but too many automakers continue to head in the wrong direction,” he said in a statement.

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