Interference on the medium waves generated by battery-powered cars has prompted several manufacturers (Audi, BMW, Mini, Tesla, and Volkswagen) toeliminate the AM tuner in their battery-powered models (we’ve already discussed it here). But new radio disturbances are on the horizon on which it would be difficult to act. Raising the alarm is the ITU (International Telecommunication Union): induction charging systems generate harmonic frequencies between 500 and 700 kHzthat cannot be eliminated by shielding because they are picked up by the antenna. In theory, U.S. law prohibits interfering with licensed stations, so if electric cars disrupt broadcasters, it is up to manufacturers to comply. Technically, however, it is not easy, and since the electric market moves huge interest (by 2030 in the U.S., one out of every two new cars should be electric) the game is wide open.
Heavy interference, but there may be a solution
Induction charging is convenient because it avoids the use of a cable. But the high powers involved (10 kW for a car, 100 kW for a public service bus) produce “robust” phantom signals. There is also DWPT, based on the same technology, which is used to extend the range of cars (now limited to a few hundred kilometers). It relies on coils placed under the asphalt that transfer energy directly to vehicles that do not have to stop at designated charging stations. What to do then? According to Xperi, stations could transmit digitally with the HD Radio system (for which the company owns the patent) because signal processing and error correction provide greater immunity to noise. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
A few days have passed since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. One morning, a listener of Radio San Marino is stunned: on the car radio screen of his Audi, a new generation model displaying the brand logo of the stations tuned in, the Russian flag appears. Yet the programme he is listening to is precisely that of Radio San Marino. He thinks of action by hackers: these are days when the invasion is taking its first steps, the information is confused but the propaganda is very active. He wonders what it could be about: in the previous days, nothing was visible. He takes a couple of photos and emails them to the broadcaster. The message reaches the technical management, which turns to an expert.
There was already an anomaly
Let’s go back two months. Radio San Marino has been experiencing problems with some car radios for some time: their brand logo does not appear. Therefore it commissions an investigation from Radio Data Center, a German company specialising in new-generation multimedia systems that display the broadcasters’ logos. Research shows that the problem is confined to the brands of the Volkswagen Group (including Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Skoda) and Ford. During the research, a technical incompatibility emerges: the station is not using an identification code reserved for the San Marino state, as prescribed by international regulations. It has inserted a number reserved for Italy in the equipment that generates the RDS: a correct one is identified and communicated to the technical office. The broadcaster repositioned itself correctly in February 2022 and… a few days later, the picture of the screen with the Russian flag shows up.
What had happened?
Radio Data Center does the first test on an Audi Q5 at the Reggini dealer in Falciano: nothing appears on the screen. Not even the Radio San Marino brand, but that’s normal: the RDS change was announced 30 days ago, but since the car is not connected to the Internet, you have to wait for the update to become available, download it onto a memory stick and do the upgrade (but the company is late: it is still suffering from the slowdowns caused by the pandemic and has not released it for some time). The anomaly is therefore confined to older-generation, Volkswagen-made car radios and shows on the screen Radio Rossii, the most important Russian state broadcaster, which has the flag in its logo. The update will correct this.
But the devil got in the way
The change, announced in February, is on the waiting list: with tens of thousands of radios to chase, and constant changes, those managing the logos have so many backlogs. The request is examined after six months. But there is a setback: due to an error, only the data of the second network Radio San Marino Classic (which has similar problems) is updated. It’s therefore necessary to wait for the next update, scheduled for December 2022. (Written byFabrizio Carnevalini)
The success of an aggregator is not synonymous with completeness and updating of data. After TuneIn, the leading radio streams platform, which has been blocking the inclusion of new stations for years (and even changes take months), similar problems are affecting Radio.net. Markus Weidner, the editor of Teltarif.de, a telephony website, has been criticising the German-based portal, describing it as “embarrassing” and providing documented examples. On his personal blog, Markus begins by saying that the web radio database has always been incomplete compared to competitors such as TuneIn Radio and Airable. And for almost three months now everything has been at a standstill: it is impossible to make corrections or add stations. Officially, the problem is justified by the fact that changes are being made to the database and users are asked to be patient. Yet the portal is one of the most popular and appreciated in Germany and has more than twenty sister sites for different countries and markets, so much so that Volkswagen has chosen it as a platform for listening to online radio for its own cars and those of the brands it owns (Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda).
Audi cars sold in the United States can be equipped with a hybrid car radio (i.e. capable of receiving the signal over the air or streaming via the internet) that maintains the tuning of the preferred station even if the signal broadcast over the air is weakening during the journey. With a traditional device, when you leave the coverage area of a station, noise increases until the audio becomes unintelligible. Cars equipped with the Hybrid Radio® system, on the other hand, allow you to continue listening because when the listening quality starts to deteriorate they automatically switch from the signal transmitted over the air to the digital signal received via the Internet.
The new functionality is available on vehicles in the 2021 series (on sale from September 2020) equipped with the MIB 3 modular multimedia system, which connects to the network thanks to the integrated 4G Wi-Fi hotspot (requires a subscription to the Audi connect® Prime or Plus service). iHeartRadio, a leading U.S. radio company, is making more than 600 stations throughout North America compatible with the Hybrid Radio® system, in order to participate in the project.