Functional Audio

Spatial Sound for advanced alerts and audio information

There are a lot of sounds in the car like turn signals, parking assist, navigation instructions, audible alerts, incoming messages and telephone call. Why not use these sounds to specifically focus the attention of the driver on a traffic incident. If a source of danger, such as another vehicle, approaches from the right, an audible warning signal sounds from the right-hand side of the vehicle, while all other sounds are faded out. Or when a person walks behind the vehicle the audible alert in the vehicle could be louder than the alert when approaching a stationary object. This is possible by developing a Central Audio Management system that integrates all audible sources in a vehicle in one single system.

Alongside this central approach another essential function is the software’s live data connection. This means that the system can be connected to driver assistance systems or cloud applications, such as the eHorizon and create or modify sounds based on the data received. This is known as sonification or auditory display. As an example, when a vehicle approaches a turn the indication alert increases in speed, notifying the driver when to make the turn. They no longer have to read the distance indicator or estimate distance information. Turning is also made easier by spatial audio output of directions. The instruction to turn comes from the direction in which the vehicle should drive. This enables drivers to keep their attention on the road in stressful driving situations, such as in urban traffic in an unfamiliar area, and to better understand navigation instructions. Thanks to the spatial audio output, the sound source can move around the vehicle almost freely and be played from any available speakers, or can be used to guide the attention of the driver. By doing so, the driver is able to deviate the audible location accuracy by up to eight angular degrees.

The significance of the modified audio output also becomes clear in other situations. For instance, the sound of the turn signals can be augmented with additional information. If the driver initiates an overtaking maneuver and uses the turn signal, it effectively becomes a blind spot assistant, whereby the sound of the indicator is overlaid with an audible warning. The sound of the turn signal only returns to normal when the lane is free, meaning that the driver can change lanes after checking over their shoulder. As a result, drivers do not have to spend time looking for gaps in passing traffic and can focus their attention on the vehicle in front of them. The collision warning works in a similar way. Thanks to the live data connection, the system could even be informed about vehicles around the corner and immediately sound a spatial audible alert to inform the driver of a potential collision.

Central Audio Management also allows the audio design to be adapted across the entire system and vehicle, which can be automatically controlled by the vehicle sensors. Carmakers are creating new sound functions to provide their customers with an individual, brand-specific audio experience. The system offers a variety of customization options for drivers who want to add that personal touch to their environment, enabling them to download and playback sounds at any time. Whether the various sounds for non-safety-functions in a vehicle include birds chirping, snippets from a favorite song, or science fiction sound effects from box-office hits, they can be completely tailored to the driver’s tastes. Sound algorithms from third parties, such as noise cancellation or 3D sound, can also be integrated as a plug-in. All functions and settings can be configured using a development tool with a graphical user interface. This allows developers to simulate the sound design and even test and modify the settings in real time in the target vehicle. This reduces the development time for sound effects, ensuring greater efficiency.

Functional audio is developing Continentals holistic human-machine interface approach even further.