Your Next Car’s Dashboard Is Probably Being Unveiled This Week at CES

Cars are changing.  In its preview of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, The Hollywood Reporter makes this observation:

[C]ar buyers — particularly millennials — are no longer as susceptible to the industry’s traditional marketing tropes of styling, horsepower and handling. Instead, they see the car as an extension of their digital lives, and increasingly demand that it mesh seamlessly with their smart phones, tablets and other personal tech. A Compass Intelligence survey of smart phone-owning drivers released in December concluded that “the primary needs and wants out of technology … is the enhancement of the driving experience.”

In other words, the car is morphing into sort of an uber-app.  Radio consultant Mark Ramsey then makes this comment:

Not the availability of anything and everything. Not the perpetuation of traditional entertainment forms. Not easy access to FM and AM radio. Not FM or AM radio at all, per se, but “the enhancement of the driving experience.”

So the technology – and the content that streams through it – either enhances that experience or not. It informs or educates or answers questions or anticipates needs or solves problems or entertains….

Or it’s not what today’s consumer wants.

So does this mean that traditional radio–a medium that has long dominated in-car entertainment–is in trouble? Depends who you ask.  Roger Lanctot, an analyst who spends a lot of time looking at the evolution of the connect car, doesn’t think so.

Many of the competing alternatives to the car radio are working hard to replicate all or part of the contextual AM/FM content delivery experience via a cellular IP connection. Those alternatives include but are not limited to Aupeo, TuneIn Radio, Aha Radio, Stitcher, Rivet Radio, iTunes Radio and OmnyApp to say nothing of the streaming audio contenders Pandora, Beats, Rdio, Amazon Cloud, Rhapsody, Spotify, Deezer, Douban, and a growing roster of competitors around the world.

Cars may be losing their CD players and traditional rearview and side mirrors, but cars will definitely have radios in 2015.


Through the adoption and promotion of digital and hybrid experiences, the humble radio can retake the innovation initiative in 2015. Radio needs to be everywhere that consumers are, including on their mobile phones. Car makers need to be reminded of the vital source of location information generally and traffic information in particular that the radio delivers – for free and without distraction. Without concerted effort we will continue to have the radio relevance discussions in 2015 that we had in 2014 – when we ought to be putting the debate to bed for good. The next headline should read: Radio Forever!

As someone who has spent more than half my life in the radio industry, I definitely want to see the medium evolve with changing technologies and consumer demands. But we’ll see.  All I can do is push things along as hard as I can.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38536 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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