Xperi’s DTS AutoStage unifies the connected car in-dash experience
BY Randy J. Stine, RADIO WORLD
Changes lie ahead for the entertainment space of the connected car. But where does radio fit with the so-called “screenification” of new cars?
The seamless experience of broadcast radio and IP that defines hybrid radio continues to be implemented in an increasing number of connected vehicles globally, and radio remains a dominant force when it comes to in-car listening.
Traditional AM/FM is used by most as an in-car audio source but has ceded some ground to digital audio sources, according to the recently released 2023 Infinite Dial study from Edison Research. AM/FM radio continues to be the default choice in-car with 75% of the population, but that’s down from 81% in 2020. Meanwhile the number of people listening to online audio through a cell phone has jumped to 53%.
The survey found the number of people with an in-dash integrated entertainment platform in their vehicle is growing slowly — up to 26% of Americans from 22% last year, led by Apple Car Play at 16% and then Android Automotive at 14%. Clearly the car cabin space has become very competitive.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has aggressively pursued an adaptive process for broadcast radio to remain relevant in the infotainment dashboard.
PILOT, the technology arm of NAB, has reported good progress on an initiative to make sure Android Automotive, a built-in operating system that is different from an Android App on someone’s phone, fully supports broadcast radio and RDS. PILOT has been working with Google, Xperi, auto manufacturers and radio broadcasters across the globe in this work.
John Clark, executive director of NAB PILOT, said the documentation detailing the proposed extensions for the Android Open Source Project — used by third-party developers to enable apps for Android Automotive — was delivered to Google last fall.
“We have had some ongoing conversations but nothing definitive to report at this point. I do remain optimistic about the work and what may come of it,” said Clark.
HD Radio developer Xperi is banking on its DTS AutoStage platform in the connected car cabin.
The company’s Connected Car division, which includes HD Radio, DTS AutoStage, DTS AutoSense and Music Metadata, expects to have more than $300 million of revenue to be recognized over the next several years, according to Xperi CEO John Kirchner.
Radio advocates keep pushing the importance of metadata. In fact, the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) is unveiling a new report at NAB Show focusing on this valuable information in the car.
“Each manufacturer takes their own approach to user experience, but a common fundamental is relying on radio broadcasters to produce high-quality metadata and content to go alongside their audio broadcasts,” said Nick Piggott, project director for RadioDNS. “It’s about really maximizing the benefits of linking IP with broadcast.”
Voice assistants will be a key feature in future designs, according to observers, with Alexa, Siri and other voice assistants hitching a ride in the car.
“Voice in the car is like the car’s search engine — so that means enabling search for things like gas stations and restaurants,” said Roger Lanctot, director, automotive connected mobility for TechInsights. “Ultimately, voice will allow for greater discoverability of content — types of music, specific artists or tracks, or particular programs or just traffic or weather information — tuned to the vehicle’s location.”
There’s also the new idea of delivering radio content using the NextGen TV signal standard now that some ATSC 3.0 developers say there will be room for radio in the digital pipeline. Some of them believe ATSC 3.0 could give automakers a direct over-the-air data pipeline into new electric vehicles for things such as software and firmware upgrades along with enhanced GPS capabilities. What are the next steps? It’ll be worth watching.
Radio is facing other challenges when it comes to in-car developments. Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media was one of the first to alert radio broadcasters of the auto industry’s plans to monetize the dashboard by rolling out subscription digital services that could someday include AM/FM radio service. And much has been written about how electric cars might not include AM radio in some models in the future.
Industry experts say the dashboard is in constant refresh mode.