Hybrid radio, the technology that allows car radios to switch between broadcast and streaming audio signals when they enter or exit a station’s broadcast signal area, is getting a major boost from a partnership between Audi and iHeartMedia. The broadcaster is rolling out hybrid radio compatibility with more than 600 of its stations in North America as part of an initial integration phase. In a first, Audi of America is introducing the technology on select vehicles which begin arriving at dealerships nationwide this month.
Hybrid radio will be available on select 2021Audi vehicles with the new MIB 3 infotainment suite for listeners with an Audi connect Prime Or Plus subscription.
Hybrid radio enables uninterrupted listening by switching between a station’s over the air signal and its online steam when the vehicle moves in and out of the station’s signal contour. “When the vehicle is cycled off and on again, it is able to retain the radio station, picking up the digital radio channel via an internet connection,” Audi said in a press release. Audi says hybrid radio uses the integrated 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot to maintain a radio station when out of range of the broadcast signal.
Hybrid radio also provides a richer, more interactive experience, including graphics and other capabilities.
According to the announcement from Audi, iHeart is among the first to bring its digital radio channels to RadioDNS standards that enable hybrid radio. RadioDNS is the non-profit organization promoting the growth of hybrid radio worldwide.
Gaining support from the country’s largest radio company is a major step for the technology, which has been in development for years.
“The ability to bring Hybrid Radio to Audi customers would not be possible without pioneers like iHeartRadio embracing this technology,” said Pom Malhotra, Director, Connected Services, Audi of America.
Michele Laven, President of Strategic Partnerships Group for iHeartMedia, said the functionality provides another way for radio’s companionship role “to be seamlessly extended beyond the range of the broadcast signal, keeping the consumer connected to their favorite station, no matter where the road takes them.”