Directional Audio Alerts put safety in the driving seat

Ford is testing Directional Audio Alerts, a system that simulates sounds caused by potential hazards, such as pedestrian footsteps or the ringing bell of an oncoming bicycle.

According to Ford, this system would use in-vehicle speakers to let drivers know which direction potential hazards are coming from.

Initial tests showed that drivers using Directional Audio Alerts were significantly more accurate when it came to identifying potential hazards and their position. “Today’s warning tones are already informing drivers when to watch out and be vigilant. Tomorrow’s technology could alert us exactly to what the hazard is and where it’s coming from,” said Oliver Kirstein, SYNC software engineer, Enterprise Connectivity, Ford of Europe.


Ford vehicles currently have driver assistance technologies that use a range of sensors to identify when pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles are nearby. These technologies provide visual and audible warnings and can apply emergency braking if necessary.

Now used by Ford, software developed the information from the sensors to select and play the correct sound through the speaker closest to the obstacle.

Directional Audio Alerts
(Image: Ford Motor Company)

Ford said tests in a simulated environment showed that drivers warned by Directional Audio correctly identified the nature and source of the hazard 74 percent of the time. Even by sounding a regular tone from the correct speaker, the driver was able to correctly identify the object’s location 70 percent of the time.

Engineers have also created a realistic scenario on a test track, with a vehicle reversing out of a parking space, an approaching pedestrian and the footstep warning. Participants in the test responded positively to the sound of footsteps, especially when this warning was played through a specific speaker.

Looking ahead, engineers at Ford believe that those results can be further improved by using 3D spatial sound similar to that found in movie theaters and gaming to help drivers better identify the source of the hazard.

Abhishek Maheswari
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