Ford Media Center

Ford Tests Footsteps, Bicycle Bells as Smart Driver Alerts

  • Ford is trialling the use of specific speakers to indicate the direction from which people and objects are approaching
  • Engineers are also testing intuitive sounds – bicycle bells, footsteps and vehicle noises – to warn drivers when other road users or pedestrians are nearby
  • Researchers found that by using Directional Audio Alerts drivers more frequently correctly identified the nature and location of other road users and pedestrians

Dunton, Essex Feb. 17, 2022 – Driver alerts – in the form of visual displays and warning tones – help us to negotiate our daily drives. But what if such sounds simulated those made by potential hazards – and enabled drivers to know exactly where they were coming from? 1

Ford is trialling smart driver alert technology that could do exactly that. Engineers are exploring a clever use of in-car audio to clearly convey the location of other road users or pedestrians. In addition, they are testing the use of intuitive sounds – such as footsteps, bicycle bells and the sound of passing cars – rather than a single tone.

Initial tests revealed that 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,” said Oliver Kirstein, SYNC software engineer, Enterprise Connectivity, Ford of Europe.

How it could work

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.

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 per cent 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 per cent of the time.

Engineers also set up a real-world scenario on the test track, with a vehicle backing out of a parking space, an approaching pedestrian and the footsteps alert. Participants in the test responded positively to the footsteps sound, especially when this intuitive alert was played through a specific speaker.

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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1 Driver-assist features are supplemental to and do not replace the driver’s attention, judgement and need to control the vehicle.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, that is committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for and deepen the loyalty of those customers.  Ford designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of connected, increasingly electrified passenger and commercial vehicles:  Ford trucks, utility vehicles, vans and cars, and Lincoln luxury vehicles.  The company is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, connected vehicle services and mobility solutions, including self-driving technology, and provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  Ford employs about 183,000 people worldwide.  More information about the company, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company is available at corporate.ford.com.

 

Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 41,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and consolidated joint ventures and approximately 55,000 people when unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 14 manufacturing facilities (10 wholly owned facilities and four unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.

 

Contact:

Monika Wagener

 

Ford of Europe

 

mwagener@ford.com

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