May 11, 2022

Ford is testing in-vehicle sound effects to alert drivers to dangers outside the vehicle

The same soundproofing that helps make cars quiet inside also masks sounds from outside that could help drivers spot potential hazards. To remedy this, Ford is testing a new system in Europe that couples automatic hazard detections with sound effects in the car So drivers are aware of hazards before they even see them.

Now that sensors like speed cameras and cameras with intelligent object detection are small enough to be hidden anywhere in vehicles, many cars include hazard detection and warning systems where dashboard lights and Generic sound effects alert drivers to passing vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. But most of the time, these warnings are vague, requiring the driver to instantly check all of their mirrors and blind spots to determine exactly where the danger lies outside of their vehicle.

Ford engineers in Europe want to take this safety feature one step further. They are currently testing something they call Directional Audio Alert which adds two important pieces of information. First, the system determines where the danger actually is in relation to the vehicle, and audio alerts are then routed to a specific speaker for the driver to hear from indicates where the danger actually is. Unless you’re spending half a million dollars on a sports car where every ounce of weight reduction is crucial to its performance, even an inexpensive sedan has speakers for the stereo located all around the interior of the vehicle, which makes it possible to give the sounds a certain directionality.

Second, instead of a generic chime, the vehicle’s sensors and cameras would intelligently determine what the hazard is and play an appropriate sound effect, such as the honking of a car horn, the chime of a bicycle bell, or the footstep. In tests involving a driving simulator, drivers were able to instantly identify the type and location of a hazard 74% of the time. Engineers hope to further improve the effectiveness of directional audio alerts through the use of spatial sound hints that help better position alert sounds in 3D space. Not only would a driver know that a bicycle is stopping along the right side of their vehicle, but the 3D sounds would also help them know how fast the cyclist was passing, allowing them to react accordingly before they even see it. .

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