NAB PILOT, Xperi AutoStage, and several US and international radio broadcast organizations are taking steps to ensure radio is properly represented as automotive OEMs expand their use of Android Automotive.
The background: big tech companies have collaborated with car manufacturers to develop the media environments of the future; these decisions will have crucial implications for broadcast radio.
Broadcasters are concerned that some of the adaptations may not be in their best interest, especially since companies like Google and Apple seem well positioned to help choose software interfaces that will end up in the dashboard. Rapidly developing innovation adds urgency to these developments.
Radio in conversation
Google’s Android Automotive operating system is an Android-based infotainment system that is being built into some new vehicles and is gaining traction among automakers.
The multimedia system, which replaces the standard radio in the dashboard of most vehicles, is a stand-alone Android device with user apps installed directly on the car’s system – no smartphone required. (“Android Automotive” is different from “Android Auto”, where the system runs on the user’s phone.)
General Motors, Ford, Audi and Stellantis have announced plans to integrate the Android Automotive platform to power their infotainment systems in new cars. ABI Research said it expects 36 million vehicles to ship with Android Automotive in 2030.
It is in this context that NAB, Xperi and broadcasters like iHeartMedia and the BBC work together.
A key goal is to coordinate industry presentation of metadata for content and advertising.
John Clark, executive director of NAB PILOT, said the goal of the Android Automotive initiative is to ensure that broadcast radio is properly supported in the open source system and to help broadcast benefit from its deployment.
“Whenever you talk about ‘what controls the radio and the dashboard,’ it’s important that the radio is part of that conversation. We need to make sure that the radio functionality is built in and that Android Automotive takes it into account. charge, and make sure that the tuner and all broadcast standards such as HD radio, DAB and regular AM and FM channels are built in and available to application developers, ”he mentioned. “The majority of automakers have already committed to Android Automotive.”
NAB PILOT, which is the association’s technology development initiative, is trying to integrate a support system into Android Automotive’s open source platform.
“(Android Automotive) is open to everyone. If you develop in Android and Android Automotive, there is access if we are successful, ”Clark said.
The initiative aims to create additional software and functionality in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), with open source solutions available to Tier 1 and application developers around the world.
This is important because there is “no guarantee that the dashboard scan will be good” for broadcast radio, Clark said; this could lead to increased competition in the dashboard from purely entertainment services like Spotify.
“Increased fragmentation, and broadcasters and automakers all doing things a little differently with no one on the same page, is the worst case. It would mean different user experiences, ”he said.
“We want the radio broadcast to be uniform from car to car. When you take the simplicity out of the radio and put it in a software user interface, it could become a giant challenge if people can’t easily find the product, ”he said. “There is a huge advantage for cohesion. “
Clark said the group’s intention is to ensure that “none of the characteristics of the radio broadcast are lost.” And what’s more, what if the dashboard becomes completely dependent on an IP connection? It would be disastrous if dashboard designers didn’t pay attention to the broadcast component.
Companies involved in PILOT’s Android Automotive initiative include Bauer Media, the BBC, Beasley Media Group, Commercial Radio Australia, Cox Media Group, Entercom, iHeartMedia, New York Public Radio, NPR, Salem Media Group, SWR, and TBS Radio. Clark said they are “providing their expertise and their voice” to the initiative.
Xperi is doing a lot of the development work on the dashboard redesign as it relates to metadata delivery and rendering, said Joe D’Angelo, its senior vice president for radio.
Xperi is the parent of HD Radio; it also recently launched the DTS AutoStage hybrid radio platform. She is a member of PILOT and describes herself as a spokesperson for the radio industry.
D’Angelo stated that Android Automotive “will control the radio tuner, so it is imperative that broadcasters around the world ensure that Android Automotive fully implements all radio standards that are commercially deployed around the world. It is critical that the main units have the ability to tune to analog signals AM and FM, HD Radio and DAB. This will depend on the completeness of the functionality of the operating system, “he said.
“Google is engaged with our group, but it is a huge company that also has a lot of competing components looking for support and resources.”
Google did not respond to Radio World’s requests for comment on Android Automotive and how radio fits into the changing tech landscape.
Clark of NAB said that Google “listens to us like any good company that wants feedback on their product. They asked us to stay in talks with them. They are very interested in our progress and they want to know more about the players in the field and how what we are doing aligns with what the automakers are doing in the dashboard. “
He added: “We have to make Google understand that if they pay attention to radio, then radio will really be there with these services.”
D’Angelo said that NAB and Xperi have “open access to Google’s engineering and strategic partnership teams” and can “update them on our progress.” … We have a long history of working with Google, automakers and Tier Ones, so we bring our expertise in product development, engineering and product certification.
While Android Automotive is a relatively new entrant in the dashboard war, he said Google is making inroads quickly.
“I think what’s unique is that they come not only with a new operating system, but also with a suite of applications. It’s no different than what they’ve done in the smartphone space. They are not yet dominant in the automobile, but they are trying to make a big push in the automobile.
D’Angelo sees a natural overlap between Android Automotive and DTS AutoStage, although he said the latter focuses on the presence of terrestrial radio in the dashboard.
Google “offers a set of IP-based services alongside the operating system (Android Automotive),” he continued, but Xperi is focusing on the radio broadcast component.
“Android Automotive is a hybrid system. It has IP functionality, internet connectivity and support for live reception. It is therefore a platform on which DTS AutoStage as a service can be integrated, but this is not the main objective of the group. This part is appealing to us and other advocates of hybrid radio, but the scope of the project is only focused on good broadcast. Because if we don’t broadcast properly, there is no hybrid radio, ”he continued.
“First we need to make sure that automakers around the world who embrace Android Automotive have the best analog and digital broadcast radio experience possible. Then we can talk about our evolution and maybe take advantage of IP connections.
For now, broadcasters must remain diligent and support efforts to add metadata to their broadcast signals, NAB’s Clark said.
Broadcasters need to ensure that their over-the-air service “takes advantage of all the functionality of the transport system,” D’Angelo said. “If the radio provides a rich and compelling multimedia experience that benefits the driver of a vehicle, then automakers will be forced to implement all the technology. “
He said the companies supporting the PILOT project realize the importance of displaying broadcast metadata on the dashboard alongside audio services, and that the metadata is in fact presented to the driver, not overwritten.
Michael Beach, vice president of distribution at NPR, said, “NPR and PRSS believe it is essential to work with the National Association of Broadcasters and Xperi on developing efforts like this that will maintain the vitality of the broadcast radio and take advantage of the features. on new and emerging platforms.
The involvement of broadcasters, D’Angelo said, is “really critical so that we can accelerate the rollout of these great services for automakers who are committed to Android Automotive. And we’re really excited that some of the biggest broadcasters are giving us their feedback.