In new Audi models, hybrid radio automatically switches between FM, DAB and an online stream, depending on signal strength (Photo: Audi)

The European Parliament this week adopted a new communications directive that will require all new cars sold in the European Union to be equipped with digital radio receivers.

The decision, which is expected to be formally embraced by the 27 national European Union governments in early 2019, is driven by an industry trend away from the prevailing FM standard toward digital radio.

Norway switched off official FM radio transmissions in 2017, Switzerland will do so in coming years and many other European countries are contemplating similar moves.

DAB+, the most common standard for digital radio, can be transmitted more cost effectively than FM signals and is seen as more reliable than internet radio in the car. It also provides the ability to receive free-to-air traffic information services and potentially represents another way to realize various other connected-car functions.

The EU directive says digital radio reception must be included in car infotainment systems in addition to FM reception automakers may want to provide.

Many car brands have already started to offer DAB+ as standard in their new cars in key countries. According to WorldDAB, 90 percent of new cars in the UK and 85 percent in Switzerland come with DAB+ as standard. In 2017, the total of new cars sold with DAB worldwide rose 28 percent to 5.9 million units.

“The inclusion of digital terrestrial radio in the European Electronic Communications Code is a critical milestone for digital radio in Europe,” said Patrick Hannon, president of the global digital radio lobbying organization WorldDAB. “It is clear evidence that DAB+ is seen, at a pan-European level, as the core future platform for radio.”