By Craig Zammit

MELBOURNE: Car makers including Ford, Holden and Toyota have met with leading radio industry body, Commercial Radio Australia, to discuss the future of digital radio at a briefing this week.

With the Federal Government’s digital radio launch date of 1 January 2009 and the commercial radio industry committing to an estimated $400 million over the next few years to launch digital radio in Australia, the automotive industry is now discussing the development of the next generation of in-car digital radios.

Commercial Radio Australia chief executive officer, Joan Warner, believes that digital radio is perfectly suited to the in-car market.

“Digital radio eliminates hiss and crackle and automatically tunes in to the strongest, most robust signal, which means greater listening pleasure when travelling and no more twiddling around looking for stations, a particular advantage on driving holidays.”

“There is also potential for digital radio to provide more frequent traffic reports, maps and other driver information to assist in traffic management,” she said.

Intelligent Transport Systems Australia executive director, Brent Stafford, believes digital radio is a great platform to connect people with information such as traffic maps and other driver information services.

“With the massive increase in congestion over recent years, we must look to every opportunity to provide rich, timely, accurate and relevant traffic and public transport information to transport users.”

Warner stated the average Australian spends nearly five hours a week listening to commercial radio in their cars, and she sees the marriage of both industries increasingly beneficial to both parties.

“We want to make sure digital radio is available from 2009 in new cars as either a factory fit or an after market option.”
Car manufacturers such as Mitsubishi, Ford, Audi and Vauxhall have already started integrating digital radio into existing models, with Mercedes-Benz soon to follow.

With factors such as increased car ownership in Australia, in-car digital radio is becoming an increasingly appealing option to car manufacturers.

“There is already a pleasing level of interest in, and knowledge of, digital radio among car manufacturers. They have asked to be kept fully informed of progress and we plan to make further presentations to product and technical managers later in the year,” Warner said.