WASHINGTON — A group of bipartisan U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday to bar automakers from eliminating AM broadcast radio in their new vehicles, citing safety concerns.
Democratic Sen. Edward Markey, one of the sponsors of the bill, said at least eight automakers have removed AM broadcast radio from vehicles, in particular electric vehicles, including Tesla BMW , Ford and Volkswagen.
The bill would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue regulations to mandate AM radio in new vehicles without additional charge. “Carmakers shouldn’t tune out AM radio in new vehicles or put it behind a costly digital paywall,” Markey said.
Lawmakers say losing AM radio undermines a federal system for delivering key public safety information to the public.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing major automakers, said “mandating AM radios in all vehicles is unnecessary. Congress has never mandated radio features in vehicles ever before. Automakers remain 100 percent committed to ensuring drivers have access to public alerts and safety warnings.”
They pointed to the Integrated Public Alerts and Warning System (IPAWS) system that can distribute warnings across AM, FM , internet-based or satellite radio and over cellular networks. “This is simply a bill to prop up and give preference to a particular technology that’s now competing with other communications options and adapting to changing listenership,” the automaker group added.
Sponsors include Sens. Ted Cruz, Tammy Baldwin, Deb Fischer, Ben Ray Luján, J.D. Vance and Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
“If Elon Musk has enough money to buy Twitter and send rockets to space, he can afford to include AM radio in his Teslas. Instead, Elon Musk and Tesla and other car manufacturers are putting public safety and emergency response at risk,” Gottheimer said. Tesla did not immediately comment.
Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel praised the bill, saying “There is a clear public safety imperative here. Having AM radio available in our cars means we always have access to emergency alerts and key warnings while we are out on the road.”