WATCH: Ford Europe tests Directional Audio Alert to improve driving safety

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In the company’s pursuit to improve road safety and minimize accident-related injuries, Ford is now testing a new and smart audio technology that could potentially help drivers better identify approaching objects, vehicles, and pedestrians.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Where will the Directional Audio Alert play the audible warnings?

    The new Directional Audio Alert technology will play specific driver-assist warning alerts using the speaker closest to the obstacle.
  • What audible alerts are being tested with Directional Audio Alert?

    Ford Europe's Directional Audio Alert is exploring intuitive audible alerts such as footsteps, bicycle bells, and the sound of passing cars.
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    The European arm of the Blue Oval brand has released a video on its official YouTube channel showing how this smart driver alert works. You can check it out here.

    “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,” said Ford Europe Sync Software Engineer, Enterprise Connectivity Oliver Kirstein.

    Drivers have always relied on visual displays and warning tones to help improve their situational awareness when using public roads. These aids are often provided via the vehicle’s instrument panel and infotainment display allowing the driver to focus on the said systems mounted on the dashboard.

    And while this straightforward, linear setup has worked for a very long time, Ford is exploring the possibilities of improving a driver’s reaction to potential hazards by giving the driver audible cues to where they are coming from.

    Dubbed the Directional Audio Alert, this technology uses the information from the sensors around the vehicle to select the appropriate sound and play it through the speaker closest to the obstacle.

    This clever use of in-car audio to clearly convey the location of other road users or pedestrians will be accompanied by intuitive sounds such as footsteps, bicycle bells, and the sound of passing cars rather than a single tone.

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    According to Ford, “tests in a simulated environment showed that drivers alerted by ‘Directional Audio’ correctly identified the nature and source of the hazard 74 percent 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 percent of the time.”

    Ford’s engineers also recreated real-world driving scenarios using this technology such as a vehicle backing out of a parking space and an approaching pedestrian. Ford says that the participants in the test responded positively to the footsteps sound, especially when this intuitive alert was played through a specific speaker.

    In the 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.

    Photos from Ford

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