Ford says driver reaction time better using real (directional) sounds

Your future Ford may no longer have the typical, tired beeping sound to alert drivers of nearby objects, vehicles, or even people it encounters on the road.

The US automaker is currently working on technology that uses actual sounds, like footsteps, bicycle bells, and the sound of passing automobiles to signal the driver to take caution because something or someone is approaching.

Ford looking to swap driver alert beeps with real sounds image

Using real sounds played through the basic in-car audio system of a regular Ford vehicle, engineers were able to establish the location and direction of other road users and pedestrians. Initial tests have shown that drivers using this technology were more accurate in determining where the potential hazard was and how to properly respond.

“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 Oliver Kirstein, SYNC software engineer, Enterprise Connectivity, Ford of Europe.

Ford looking to swap driver alert beeps with real sounds image

Currently, Ford has a suite of advanced driver-assist systems to identify pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles that are near the vehicle. The driver is then notified using a combination of visual and audible alerts.

This new technology, called Directional Audio Alert, is the next evolution. Newly-developed software takes information from the sensors to select the appropriate sound and play it through the speaker closest to the obstacle.

Ford looking to swap driver alert beeps with real sounds image

Tests done in a controlled setting revealed that vehicles with Directional Audio Alert allowed drivers to accurately identify the nature and source of the hazard 74% of the time. Even just using the old beeps from the correct speaker lets the driver correctly identify the location of the object 70% of the time.

These developments are pushing Ford engineers to improve this technology using 3D spatial sound, which is now used in cinemas and gaming rigs. They believe this will allow them to get better detection and identification results.

Check out the video and see for yourself how Ford's new directional alert sounds could make roads safer for everyone.