Ford tests Directional Audio Alert for driver awareness

1 min read

Auto giant Ford is trialling the use of new smart audio technology that alerts drivers to potential hazards like cyclists and pedestrians using directional cues.

Directional Audio Alert uses a combination of sensors, speakers and intuitive sounds such as footsteps or bicycle bells to inform drivers not only that potential hazards are nearby, but also the direction in which they are approaching. When most modern vehicles already feature some level of hazard detection through parking sensors, cameras and other technology, Ford claims directional audio can significantly add to driver awareness and increase overall safety on the roads.

“Today’s warning tones already inform drivers when they need to take care and be vigilant,” said Ford Europe’s Oliver Kirstein, SYNC software engineer, Enterprise Connectivity. “Tomorrow’s technology could alert us to both exactly what the hazard is and where it is coming from.”

Ford says its vehicles already feature driver assistance technologies that use a suite of sensors to identify when pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles are nearby. These technologies offer visual and audible alerts and, where necessary, can apply emergency braking. Directional Audio Alert takes builds on these technologies, with software using the sensor data to select the appropriate sound and play it through the speaker closest to the obstacle.

According to Ford, tests in a simulated environment showed that drivers using the new system correctly identified the nature and source of hazards 74 per cent of the time, with even a regular tone from the appropriate speaker enabling the correct location of the risk to be identified 70 per cent of the time. In future, engineers believe that these results might be further improved by using 3D spatial sound similar to that used in cinemas and gaming to better enable drivers to identify the source of the hazard.