Re-contented radio appears in new Fords
by Doc Searls Friday, August 12, 2016

In Ford details dual FM radio tech for 2017 Fusion, Escape, Justin King in LeftLane describes what appears to be a new innovation, but in fact has been around for awhile. It's called "diversity" reception, and was standard in Nissan and Infiniti cars from 1987 to 2006. It combined signals received by a vertical whip outside antenna and a horizontal antenna embedded in the rear window, visually appearing to be part of the defrosting grid.

Outside whip antennas in recent years have either morphed into stubby rubberized things, or little fins (which tend also to be satellite radio antennae). FM antennas embedded in windows have been standard for a long time, essentially replacing outside whip antennas. (The earliest antennas embedded in glass were in GM "X" cars, such as the Chevy Citation, in the early '80s. Those put the antenna in the windshield. I had a 1980 Citation that my aunt had bought new and gave up. The radio, like everything else in it, sucked. )

For FM reception with one antenna, nothing beats a plain old outside whip about 30" long, because that roughly matches the wavelengths of signals in the middle of the FM band, and receive equally well from all directions. Horizontal antennas tend to favor reception from the broad side of the antenna (toward the front and back). But whips are unfashionable now, and radios are designed to deal with lesser antennas.

AM reception ideally requires the longest possible whip antenna. Thus the disappearance of whips has further crippled an already disadvantaged band. In some cars, such as Teslas, AM radio is not included, because nearby electronic noise from computing systems overwhelms AM receivers.

If the reception system in the new Ford models is as good or better than the old Nissan / Infiniti one, it should be great. We still have a 1995 Infiniti Q45, and the radio is outstanding, at least on FM. It replaced our 1992 Q45a, which had an even better radio that featured the AM Stereo system of its day. Alas, Nissan "de-contented" lots of good things from its cars in the '90s. First AM stereo went. (It's gone in our '95 car.) Then diversity receivers went.

Now cars are designed and marketed as enclosed entertainment systems on wheels, as well as ways to get around in comfort. So I guess you could say Ford is re-contenting the new Fusion.