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Various media have reported that there is a radio on Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, now in orbit around the Sun, and that this radio is playing music (for example: BBC reporting that David Bowie's classic hit Space Oddity will be looping on the radio, iNews reports on the radio set to play David Bowie’s Space Oddity on loop). But radio communication in interplanetary space normally requires directional antennas and attitude control, both of which are not usually present in an unmodified car (well, attitude control is, but it won't work without friction). Nor do cars normally have radio transmitters.

Is there a really a radio on Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, "playing" Space Oddity? Does that mean it's receiving a radio signal sent from somewhere, or rather that it is broadcasting this for anyone caring to listen? Can we communicate with it, then?

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    $\begingroup$ There is an onboard entertainment system that does have a radio receiver. If you want to call this "a radio" is up to you. But I think that everyone that watches the news knows that —these days — whenever someone mentions "a radio" in the context of an automobile it is not only an AM/FM receiver but a complete system that comes with a disc player, a USB slot, maybe a Bluetooth unit, navigation application, car diagnostics overview, UI for managing the climate system, and so on. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Feb 7 '18 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK I see, it must be a language issue then. Looks like wiktionary does not cover the "car onboard entertainment system" definition. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Feb 7 '18 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ A car AM/FM receiver is passive receiver. For communication, a combination of a receiver and transmitter is necessary to enable upload and download. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Feb 7 '18 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit Well if we are going to be nit-picky in the extreme: Radio is not the thingy that receives transmissions and turns it into audio. Radio is the technology by which we use radio transmitters to broadcast radio transmissions, which are then picked up by radio receivers. But everyone would go nuts if we had to be that precise and always talk about "radio receivers" as such. Instead we take a shortcut and call radio receivers, radio transmitters and radio transceivers as "a radio" or "radios". The context matters in these cases. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Feb 7 '18 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is due to a misunderstanding of the English language word "radio" (in a car). $\endgroup$ – gerrit Feb 7 '18 at 15:37
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It's the car's standard stereo system (colloquially called "radio" because it includes a radio receiver) playing a music track. It's neither receiving nor broadcasting anything.

Portable/in-car sound systems are often called "radio" because the first such systems had only one source: a radio receiver. Later on, more functions were added, but the name stuck. More accurate names are available.

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    $\begingroup$ So articles calling it a radio are wrong? $\endgroup$ – gerrit Feb 7 '18 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ A "radio" in a car is no longer just a "radio" in the technical sense of the word. See MichealK's comment above. It's probably playing from a USB stick or something without moving parts. $\endgroup$ – JPhi1618 Feb 7 '18 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ It is not possible to both include a radio receiver and neither receiving nor broadcasting anything. The radio may not be used when a track of a storage media is played. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Feb 7 '18 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ Yes it is. My car stereo has 4 sources: CD, tuner, aux in and USB. When I select one of CD, aux, USB, the radio does not magically disappear. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Feb 7 '18 at 15:36

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