Ford is trialling smart driver alert technology 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.

“Today’s warning tones already inform drivers when they need to take care and be vigilant,” said Oliver Kirstein, SYNC Software Engineer, Enterprise Connectivity, Ford of Europe.

“Tomorrow’s technology could alert us to both exactly what the hazard is and where it is coming from.”

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.

According to Ford, 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 percent of the time.

Ford says that in the future, engineers believe 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.

Read more on the Ford website