Ford Trialling Unique Directional Driver Alerts

Aachen, Germany

Ford Motor Company is developing onboard speakers and specific sounds to alert drivers to other road users around their vehicle, including cyclists and pedestrians.

Ford of Europe is trialling “smart driver alert technology” that uses in-car audio to clearly identify the type of road user and their location.

The trial includes intuitive sounds such as footsteps, bicycle bells and the sound of passing cars to identify the nearby vehicle or pedestrian.

A statement from Ford says initial tests revealed drivers using Directional Audio Alerts were significantly more accurate when it came to identifying potential hazards and their position.

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

“Ford vehicles currently 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 if necessary, apply emergency braking,” the statement says.

“Directional Audio Alert takes these warnings a step further. A Ford-developed software uses the information from the sensors to select the appropriate sound and play it through the speaker closest to the obstacle.

Tests in a simulated environment showed that drivers alerted by Directional Audio correctly identified the nature and source of the hazard 74% of the time. Even just emitting a regular tone from the appropriate speaker enabled the driver to correctly identify the location of the object 70% of the time.

“In future, engineers believe that those 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.”

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