RELEASE: Gottheimer Fights Back Against EV Car Manufacturers Discontinuing AM Radio in Cars & Trucks

AM Radio is Critical to Emergency Response — Provided Lifesaving Information After 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. 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.”.

Mar 21, 2023
Press
Above: Gottheimer by the Tesla dealership in Paramus today.

PARAMUS, NJ — Today, March 21, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced action to protect public safety and encourage electric vehicle (EV) auto manufacturers to include AM radio in their cars and trucks. Despite the clear public safety uses of AM radio, many EV manufacturers have stopped including AM radio in their vehicles because they do not want to spend a few dollars to ensure public safety during emergencies.

AM radio is the backbone behind America’s National Public Warning System, which provides emergency-alert and warning information to the public during major natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, chemical incidents, health emergencies, and other domestic threats and emergencies. During the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, AM radio provided a crucial lifeline for lifesaving information.

77 radio stations, most of which operate on AM band and cover at least 90% of the U.S. population, are equipped with backup communications equipment and generators that allow them to continue broadcasting information to the public during and after an emergency and can be heard from thousands of miles away.

More than 47 million Americans — about twenty percent of the radio-listening public — listen to AM radio and time spent listening to AM radio has risen over the past five years.

Gottheimer’s steps to ensure all vehicles have AM radio:

  • Gottheimer is writing to major EV auto manufacturers — including Tesla — urging them to reconsider their decision to discontinue AM radio in their cars and trucks and to include the public safety tool as a stock feature. Read Gottheimer’s letters to major EV manufacturers here.
  • Ensure that AM radio stations remain safe and intact during national emergencies through federal investment in backup power, hardening antennas and towers, and supporting key communications equipment for AM radio stations. Last year, Gottheimer helped successfully secure a critical federal investment of $56 million for the Next Generation Warning System to improve the capabilities of public broadcasters to send vital emergency and civil defense warnings.
  • Gottheimer is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to add AM radio to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards — to require that all automakers, including EV manufacturers, include AM radio as a stock feature in their vehicles. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are the minimum safety standards that a manufacturer must meet when making a vehicle — including requirements related to airbags, brakes, seatbelts, tires, controls, and displays.

“I would think that 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,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “The importance of AM radio during large-scale emergencies cannot be underestimated, and it has, without a doubt, and without interruption, saved lives and kept our communities informed. When the cell phone runs out, the internet gets cut off, or the television doesn’t work because of no electricity or power to your house, you can still turn on your AM radio.”

“AM stations are the backbone of our country’s emergency alert system — able to quickly alert citizens to impending storms and other emergencies. And when the power is out — televisions go black, wi-fi is down, and before long cell phone batteries are dead. Resilient, powerful, dependable AM radio remains to give New Jersey families vital information. We saw it during Superstorm Sandy, hurricanes in Louisiana, wildfires in California, even recently when a power substation was damaged in North Carolina and their power grid was interrupted for weeks. People were in their cars and trucks getting the information they needed,” said New Jersey Broadcasters Association (NJBA) Executive Director Jordan Walton. “There are plenty of business and economic reasons to preserve AM radio, but public safety — using the publicly-owned airwaves our stations have been lucky enough to borrow for 100 years — is the best reason. The New Jersey Broadcasters Association applauds Representative Gottheimer for his efforts and looks forward to supporting them in every way.”

Gottheimer was joined in Paramus next to the Tesla dealership by New Jersey Broadcasters Association (NJBA) Executive Director Jordan Walton.

Watch today’s announcement here.

Below: Gottheimer and New Jersey Broadcasters Association Executive Director Jordan Walton by the Tesla dealership in Paramus today.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. We’re here in Paramus today, right next to the Tesla dealership, to call on electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers who’ve taken AM radio out of their cars and trucks just to save a few bucks, to put it back in.

AM radio is literally the backbone behind America’s National Public Warning System — which provides emergency-alert and warning information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to the public during major natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, chemical incidents, health emergencies, and other domestic threats and emergencies.

AM radio is resilient to cyber attacks, nuclear threats, and natural disasters.

What’s great is that 77 radio stations, most of which operate on AM band and cover at least 90 percent of the U.S. population, are equipped with backup communications equipment and generators that allow them to continue broadcasting information to the public during and after an emergency.

In other words, when the cell phone runs out, the internet gets cut off, or the television doesn’t work because of no electricity or power to your house, you can still turn on your AM radio.

These stations, formally known as Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations, serve as initial entry points for national Emergency Alert System radio traffic. In the event of a serious emergency, these battle-hardened, high-powered stations would remain operational and can even be heard from thousands of miles away.

The closest station to us — the one that would cover Northern New Jersey and the New York Metropolitan area — is WABC-AM 770 out of New York City.

Last year, I helped successfully secure a critical federal investment of $56 million dollars for the Next Generation Warning System to improve the capabilities of public broadcasters to send vital emergency and civil defense warnings.

We’ve made significant investments across the country to make sure that AM radio can reach every community, all of the time, and we can’t let EV manufacturers put public safety at risk.

In fact, AM radio is so important to public safety that seven former FEMA administrators wrote to the Department of Transportation last month pushing for the federal government to ensure that AM radio remains in all cars and trucks, because it is often the last line of communication for the public. It’s also the first line of communication for many Americans — 47 million, or 20 percent of the radio-listening public, tune into AM every day. 

AM radio is known for its ability to provide broadcasts that can reach remote areas, hundreds if not thousands of miles away from stations. Its signals can travel longer distances than FM or satellite radio signals and can penetrate buildings, making AM radio a more reliable means of communication. In emergency situations, such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks, AM radio has proven to be an essential tool for disseminating critical information to the public.

But, despite the clear public safety uses of AM radio, many EV manufacturers have stopped including it in their vehicles.

These companies say that the electromagnetic noise from their electric cars can disrupt the reception of AM signals. But that’s a ridiculous argument because we know that early Tesla models actually had well-functioning AM radio. Others like GM, and Stellantis (Formerly Fiat-Chrysler) still do. But, like Tesla, Ford has discontinued AM because it costs a few bucks to add an adapter to make AM work in their electric cars and trucks. And it looks like many more will follow suit. 

The bottom line is that these EV makers don’t want to spend a little more to keep us safe in a national emergency using existing technology that would allow electric cars to have AM radio.

I would think that 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 and truck manufacturers are putting public safety and emergency response at risk.

These companies also claim that AM radio isn’t a relevant source of media anymore. They should come to Jersey where plenty of folks, like those behind me, are driving to work, carpooling, going to see family listening to AM for news, traffic, weather, sports, talk radio, you name it. 

As I said earlier, 47 million Americans listen to AM radio every day. In fact, time spent listening to AM radio has risen over the past five years to more than two hours a day.

The good news is that more people are switching to electric vehicles to protect the environment, and, like we did in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, we should do everything we can to make electric vehicles more appealing, and safer, for families. That means including AM radio to boost public safety communication. 

Today, I’m announcing new steps to protect public safety and encourage electric vehicle manufacturers to include AM radio in their cars and trucks.

First, I am writing today to the major EV companies — including Tesla — urging them to reconsider their decision to discontinue AM radio in their vehicles and to include the public safety tool as a stock feature.

Here in Jersey, we know all too well how important AM radio is during crises. During the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, AM radio provided a crucial lifeline for lifesaving information.

Most of us who are old enough remember the panic and fear on 9/11. Phones weren’t working because of downed cell service, maxed out phone lines, and damaged infrastructure. But, even in that crisis, AM radio was reliable and allowed information to be shared widely with millions.

Then, during Hurricane Sandy, AM radio was used to broadcast emergency updates and evacuation orders to people who were affected by the superstorm. It was also used to spread critical information about relief efforts and post-storm recovery.

The importance of AM radio during these large-scale emergencies cannot be underestimated, and it has, without a doubt, and without interruption, saved lives and kept our communities informed.

Second, we must ensure AM radio stations remain safe and intact during national emergencies.

Since 9/11, the federal government has doubled down on AM as a key tool in responding to national emergencies — including investing in backup power, hardening antennas and towers, and supporting key communications equipment for AM radio stations. AM radio waves travel much further than FM, and while I love satellite radio, the stations aren’t built or hardened for national emergencies.

Third, and finally, I’m calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to add AM radio to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. This would require that all automakers — including EV manufacturers —include AM radio as a stock feature in their vehicles.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are essentially the minimum safety standards that a manufacturer must meet when making a vehicle. It includes requirements related to airbags, brakes, seatbelts, tires, controls, and displays.

It’s clear that AM radio can be a lifesaving tool during an emergency, and I believe it should be viewed and treated as such under the law when it comes to making cars.

We must take swift action to require these EV companies to include AM radio in their vehicles. God forbid there is a natural disaster or terror threat here in Jersey — I don’t want any family to be unable to receive lifesaving public safety information because traditional communication infrastructure is down.

In an emergency, it’s critical that our local, state, and federal governments can quickly and clearly get important information to all communities — and we know that AM radio has always been most reliable.

EV companies need to realize the importance of AM radio and, if they don’t, the Department of Transportation should demand that they include this critical tool for public safety.

Here in the greatest country in the world, if we always work together — both in the public and private sector — to protect our families and boost safety, I know that our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America.

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