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The team from LTU to do research on sounds in cars
The project "3D sound design" led by fr. left Researcher Arne Nykänen, Professor, Anders Ågren Andre Lundkvist PhD, all within the research topic of Engineering Acoustics at Luleå University of Technology

Sounds in cars for improved safety, communication and comfort

Published: 25 May 2012

In a new project "3D sound design" at Luleå University of Technology, scientists from several disciplines are to develop information systems for cars, in cooperation with the automotive company Volvo Cars. Acousticians, psychologists, musicians, composers and designers are going to collaborate and develop systems such as can warn drivers of dangers such as moose or pedestrian near the car.

- Such a system should be able to provide an indication to the driver that it is an object at the side of the road where a danger is associated. We will examine what is the best way to provide the driver with information about this, says Anders Ågren Professor of Engineering acoustics at Luleå University of Technology. 

7 million SEK will fund "3D sound design" which is co-financed by automotive company Volvo and Swedish transport administration in the FFI program. The purpose of the "3D Sound Design" is to use sound to improve road safety and better driving environment and strengthen the Volvo brand. Engineering Acoustics is the research area of the project, but unique is that it works across multiple disciplines as composition, design and technical psychology. The latter is about how older drivers who have poorer working memory capacity can handle "right now" situations and the former how audio signals must be composed to convey the level of risk, urgency, type of information and brand identity.

- We are good at this, and unique in that we are connecting these topics with the acoustics, says Professor Anders Ågren.

It is to create sounds from ideas and holistic approach that musicians and composers have been linked to the project. It is about finding a design methodology for noise, similar to how designers visualize images, and develop tools that make it possible to sketch sound along with vehicle developes.

- We brought in musicians and composers who sketched, one can say, and then we developed visual and auditory interface that made it easy to communicate with users and decision makers in this process, says Arne Nykänen, researcher in Engineering acoustics.

Researchers in the "3D sound design" will examine how communication with the driver shall be undertaken so that driving is as safe as possible. Is a sound to warn for e.g. moose in the vicinity of a vehicle, perhaps in combination with signals to other senses, the best way to provide the driver with information about a hazard and in what form and from which direction should the warning in this case come, are some of the research issues.

- One important aspect is to draw attention to important events in the environment without pulling it from other important things, to have balance and set the right level of warning, says Professor Anders Ågren.

LTU researchers in their acoustics lab
Inside the LTU-acousticlab researchers are driving simulator in which the impact of different types of warning information and driving ability can be simulated.

In the researchers' lab there is driving simulators which one under controlled conditions can test driving abilities while the testpilot perform other tasks of various kinds. Using these can measure how the performance is affected by different noises. In a pilot study the researchers have demonstrated that it actually becomes a difference in performance depending on where you place the sounds.

- We will extend this pilot study to find effects of placement of the sound and so we are working on technology to virtually place the sounds in the room anywhere, even outside the car, says Andre Lundkvist, PhD working witin the subject Engineering acoustics.