They don’t make cars like they used to, and today’s motorists can be very thankful for that. Back in the bad old days of motoring most cars were unreliable, rust-prone, expensive, and a potential death trap.
Modern cars, even the cheapest ones, are just better in every possible way. They’re better built, they handle and drive better, they’re more comfortable, and they’re much, much safer.
But despite all that there’s one vital safety feature that was included in almost all older vehicles that’s increasingly absent in many modern ones.
It’s an AM radio. Yes, seriously! Hear me out.
In a bushfire or other emergency an AM radio can save your life, and you’d have to be living under a rock not to have noticed that Australia is increasingly prone to bushfires.
When a bushfire’s around, you need to stay up to date with what’s happening and where, and that’s where the ABC transmitting vital emergency information on AM radio becomes potentially lifesaving.
Now you might be thinking “what’s the problem? I can always get AM radio on Apple Car Play or Android Auto in the car.” Well, the problem is that Apple Car Play and Android Auto relies on a mobile phone signal that’s prone to going down in bushfires and has imperfect range at the best of times.
In the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-20, more than 1,000 mobile phone towers failed across South Eastern Australia.
Good old-fashioned AM radio, by contrast, keeps going through the worst of bushfires and has far better range than mobile signals and FM radio.
Disappearing AM radio
So, it’s potentially life-saving technology, and it’s one that’s being omitted from an increasing number of cars on the Australian market, as a recent story by Joshua Dowling on drive.com.au recently pointed out.
Car makers such as VW, BMW, Peugeot, Volvo, and Ford are judging AM radio to be redundant because AM radio is on the way out overseas. Well, it might be on the way out elsewhere, but it still plays a vitally important role here in Australia.
Dowling argues that AM radios should be compulsory on vehicles delivered in Australia until smartphone coverage improves, or another reliable emergency alert system becomes readily available.
He points out that the Australian divisions of car companies have been complaining about the removal of AM radios to their parent companies, but “pleas, polite requests – and slammed fists on boardroom tables – from Australia have fallen on deaf ears.”
Dowling’s clearly got a point. If vehicle makers won’t do the right thing, then it’s time that the Australian government made the humble AM radio band compulsory in all new vehicles.
Until that time it’s worth remembering the importance of AM radio if you’re thinking that it’s time to upgrade to a new vehicle.
Because that shiny new car might have the very latest in entertainment like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but if it’s missing that one un-heralded safety feature that could save your life in an emergency – an AM radio – it might be a good idea to look at something else.