Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog

No Radio, Android

by Roger Lanctot | Jan 28, 2019

There was a CES 2019 interview in The Verge ( last week of Patrick Brady, described as Head of Android Auto for Google, in which more than 6,000 words were used to convey his organization’s dashboard plans. The word “radio” was used only once.

I had my own interview with Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for the car electronics division of Pioneer Electronics, at CES 2019 who said: “If we left the radio out of our infotainment systems customers would lose their minds.” Cardenas was referring to the fact that CD drives are increasingly going extinct and being deleted from head units – but radio is not at risk of facing such a fate due to strong consumer demand.

The head of Android Auto on how Google will power the car of the near future – -

The Google/Brady interview in The Verge is a revelation – a breath of fresh air – clearing up any confusion regarding Google’s view of the automotive industry. Brady clearly perceives that both the Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto smartphone mirroring platforms have become nearly ubiquitous (global geographic coverage is growing). The next step, he says, is “embedding” of the Android Auto experience into the dash.

In other words, Google is more or less seeking to complete its takeover of in-dash infotainment experiences much as the company sought to take over the handset market a decade ago. Apple and Google already have certification authority over the majority of head units built into new cars. The next step will be the onset of Android operating system adoption for these systems and assumption of control of the entire system – leaving the user interface to the car makers and their suppliers.

But somehow, in the breadth and depth of this vision explicated in The Verge piece, the radio completely escapes Brady’s attention or is deliberately ignored. Brady goes so far as to acknowledge that in the Google vision, Apple CarPlay as a projected/mirrored solution will continue to be available. As for the radio? An icon? A knob? A dial?

The sum total of what Brady has to say about the integration of radio in The Verge’s 6,000+ word report is:

“We’re seeing your HVAC controls and your FM radio controls and everything is moving onto the screen with software.”

That’s it.

Interestingly, Brady doesn’t even mention SiriusXM at all. One of the most successful subscription based media services ever created, with 30M+ subscribers, SiriusXM is somehow irrelevant to Google’s plans. More importantly, radio has the broadest reach of any medium, particularly in the car, and merits a single sentence.

Given the massive changes coming to broadcast radio with the introduction of digital technology, meta data and increasingly visual experiences enabled in the car, Google’s omission can hardly be viewed in a benign manner.  Radio listeners in the car are increasingly being given new tools to discover, manage and search for broadcast content. Radio advertisers are increasingly leveraging these digital assets and integration with streaming sources to enhance their messaging.

The radio represents a contextualized content experience delivering location-relevant news, weather, sports, traffic and entertainment information for free and hands-free. Radio is also the platform of choice for delivering emergency messages and, yes, of course, Amber alerts.

Maybe the next time Patrick Brady decides to share his views about in-dash systems he won’t “lose his mind” and forget about the medium that is still delivering the message to the largest population of car driving listeners – radio!

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