A safer soundscape: Ford is testing 3D audio warning systems

Toronto, ON – Are you a fan of a good surround sound system? The same goes for Ford, so much so that the automaker is turning it into a security system.

Dubbed Directional Audio Alerts, Ford’s safety system being tested warns drivers of nearby passers-by and cyclists with different noises – footsteps for pedestrians, bells for cyclists, horns for Toronto drivers.

These alerts sound from a series of speakers around the vehicle, helping you identify pedestrians faster than looking at them. In preliminary testing, three-quarters of participants correctly identified the direction and type of object from sound alone.

According to the automaker’s tests, drivers alerted by a directional sound correctly identified the nature and source of the hazard in 74% of cases. Playing a steady tone from the appropriate speaker allowed the driver to correctly identify the location of the hazard 70% of the time.

Ford is also testing visual alerts, although it has found audio alerts to be significantly more accurate when it comes to identifying potential hazards.

If needed, Ford says the technology can also apply emergency braking, if manual warnings prove ineffective.