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Safer Soundscape: Ford testing 3D audio warning systems

Toronto, Ontario — Are you a fan of a good surround sound system? So is Ford–so much so that the automaker is turning it into a safety system.

Dubbed Directional Audio Alerts, Ford’s in-trial safety system warns drivers of nearby passersby and cyclists with different noises–footsteps for pedestrians, bells for cyclists, horn blaring from Toronto drivers.

These alerts sound off 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 directional audio correctly identified the nature and source of the hazard 74 percent of the time. Emitting a regular tone from the appropriate speaker enabled the driver to correctly identify the location of the hazard 70 percent of the time.

Ford is also testing visual alerts, though it found audio alerts were significantly more accurate when it came to identifying potential hazards.

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

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