Ford is testing audio technology to alert drivers to road hazards

Everyone’s safety on the road depends on their eyesight, of course, but also on their hearing. Ford is currently testing intelligent sound alerts that allow motorists to better identify the nature of the danger, but also its source.

On the road, visual alerts allow the driver to understand his environment, but we can go further in this area. Ford has tested audible alerts that simulate the sounds of real hazards, such as a passing vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian. An additional way to better know what is happening around your vehicle, and make the right decisions.

Determine where the danger is by sound

The manufacturer has developed a directional audio technology that relies on information collected by sensors integrated into the vehicle. The software selects the appropriate sound (bicycle bell, car backing up, footsteps, etc.) and broadcasts it to the loudspeaker closest to the obstacle.

Ford conducted tests in a simulated environment, with encouraging results: in 74% of cases, the system correctly identified the nature and source of the hazard. The driver was able to correctly identify the location of the hazard in 70% of the situations. A real-life test track scenario involved a vehicle backing out of a parking space: a pedestrian approaches, sounding the footstep alert.

Participants responded positively to the sound of footsteps heard over the loudspeaker of the car closest to the pedestrian. A balance sheet which only asks to improve, but it is a promising experiment. Especially since Ford is thinking of using spatial 3D audio, a technology well known in cinemas that fixes objects in the sound spectrum according to their position on the screen.

Of course, these technologies will never replace the vigilance and judgment of the driver. But they could be of great help to drivers. It now remains to improve the acoustics in the passenger compartments.

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