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Monday, 10 February 2020

How will a driverless car hear a siren?

Teaching cars to listen: The acoustic sensor system includes microphones, which go outside the car, a control unit and the software.

Cars with Ears 

There have been concerns about the silence of electric cars, which can pose a risk to pedestrians.

But, electric or not, when the cars become autonomous - that is, when they dispense with the drivers to guide them - those vehicles that self-drive will need to be "aware" of the traffic noise around them.

Be it the siren of an ambulance or a fire truck, the whistle of a guard, or even a danger call from a passerby, cars without a driver will definitely need to have ears.

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A team from the Institute of Technology of Digital Media, in Germany, has already anticipated this need, and has just built the first prototype of a "vehicle hearing system". In addition to traditional microphones, the device includes a processing center, whose software is already able to identify the most common noise in traffic, such as sirens.

"Despite the enormous potential of such applications, no autonomous vehicle has yet been equipped with a system capable of perceiving external noise," said engineer Danilo Hollosi, head of the acoustic event recognition group at the German institute. "These systems will be able to immediately recognize the siren of an oncoming emergency vehicle, for example, so that the autonomous vehicle then knows how to move to one side of the highway and form an access lane for rescue services."



To filter out continuous city and highway noise, the team used artificial intelligence techniques to train the algorithm that runs in the "automotive ear". "We use machine learning. And to train the algorithms, we use a whole range of archived noise," explained Hollosi.

The team believes that the first cars with ears are unlikely to reach the market before 2025 - the processing system will still need to be optimized - but they bet their technology will be used in many other areas, such as safety systems, quality control in the industry, personal care and consumer products.

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