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Driver alert technology has come a long way in the relatively short time that it’s been available, and Ford has been running some new trials in an effort to make these alerts even more effective and to encourage an intuitive response to them. This new approach is utilizing in-car audio as a way to not only indicate to a driver that something is approaching their vehicle that they need to be aware of, but also where it’s coming from. 
 

The warning tones that you’ll find a lot in cars that are on the road today are usually a beep, chime, or general tone intended to get a driver’s attention. It’s meant to alert you that something is up, but not necessarily what or where. The trial Ford is currently running is testing responses to sounds like footsteps, bicycle bells and the sound of passing cars as opposed to a single tone, to try and elicit a more instinctive response and convey more information via the alert sound.

 

Ford’s current driver assistance technologies use a whole suite of sensors to see when pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles are nearby and offer visual and audible alerts, as well as engaging emergency braking if required. Directional Audio Alert could make these warnings far more detailed. A Ford-developed software uses the information collected from the sensors to identify which sound is needed and play it through the speaker closest to the obstacle. Ford has been running tests of the software in a simulated environment, and showed that when drivers are alerted by Directional Audio, they correctly identified what the hazard was and where it was 74% of the time. Even without the use of specialized alert sounds, simply emitting the alert tone from a specific speaker in the car allowed the driver to correctly identify the location of the object 70% of the time. In addition to simulated tests, the research team has also been running real world testing scenarios, including one in which the vehicle was backing out of a parking space, the engineers set up the test of an approaching pedestrian, which triggered the footsteps alert. The drivers responded positively to both the sound of the alert and the directional aspect of it being issued from a particular speaker. In the future, the engineers believe that the results of these experiments could be made even better with the use of 3D spatial sound like the kind used in movie theaters and gaming.

 

It’s very possible that Directional Audio Alerts are a feature that we could see popping up in Ford vehicles down the line, providing one more great addition to the safety of driving a Ford. 

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