The sound of ringing bells and footsteps could be the key to road safety


Ford vehicles are currently equipped with ADAS sensors that map the car’s surroundings, alerting the driver to nearby obstacles (cars, cyclists, pedestrians, …) by emitting a warning tone or visual alert, and activating the emergency brake if needed. Now the carmaker plans to take driver alerts to the next level.

Ford Germany is conducting simulator trials and real life tests on their new “smart driver alert technology”. It consists of directional audio alerts that inform the driver where the obstacle is positioned by mimicking sounds such as footsteps, the ringing of a bicycle bell, the sound of a passing car or oncoming train. The technology relies on corner radar sensors like those for BlindSpotDetection to locate the obstacle. The new Ford software translates the data into the appropriate sound and relays it to the appropriate speaker.

So far trials are showing promising results: in the mock-up phase, 74% of the time, real life sounds allowed drivers to identify the type of obstacle they were dealing with. When hearing a regular sound alert from the appropriate speaker they were able to pinpoint its location 70% of the time. On the real life test track the technology successfully warned drivers that a pedestrian was close to the vehicle by emitting the sound of footsteps from the appropriate speaker.

At what point in time the smart driver alert technology will find its way into new Ford cars is as yet unknown. Its safety benefit however is clear: getting a proper read on the nature of an obstacle and its exact location enhances a driver’s ability to avoid collisions.