AudioNav: Navigate traffic by audio cues, like a bat. Note: bats are incapable of safely operating automobiles.

The issue:

When driving long distances, maintaining situational awareness on a boring stretch of road can be difficult.

Additionally, distractions such as in-car music may prevent natural audio cues (for example, the sound of nearby cars) from being noticed by the driver.

Proposal for the “AudioNav” car navigation aid:

  1. By using an array of rangefinders along the perimeter of a car, the AudioNav system can determine the location of nearby vehicles.
  2. This information is used to create audio cues, which are then piped through the car’s surround sound stereo system.
    1. For example: a single car directly behind the vehicle would cause AudioNav to generate a constant tone from the rear speaker.
    2. A situation in which there was a car to the back-left and another one to the back-right would cause one tone to come from the rear-left speaker, and one tone to come from the rear-right speaker.
  3. Each audio cue has a pitch component (each detected vehicle is associated with a specific pitch) and a volume (closer vehicles generate louder audio cues).
    1. In other words, the system attempts to associate a particular sound with a particular vehicle, even as that vehicle moves around. This may be difficult.

car_audio_position_1 car_audio_position_2

Fig 1: Rangefinders in the red car locate the nearby yellow truck and blue car. The yellow truck will cause the back-left speaker to generate a tone of one pitch, and the blue car will cause the back-right speaker to generate a tone of a different pitch. As the other vehicles move in relation to the red car, the car computer will make an effort to move each car’s tone in a corresponding fashion between the surround-sound speakers.


Fig 2: Some difficulties might arise in a complicated traffic scenario. In this case, rangefinder A detects car B, and rangefinder C detects car D. Car E is obscured and will not generate an audio tone in the current traffic configuration.


Fig 3: Emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire trucks, etc…) could have their own distinctive tones. Additionally, police vehicles could be pointed out by a unique police-car-only sound. (This assumes that computer vision would be up to the task of identifying an emergency vehicle or police car in the first place.)


This might actually work! It would also provide another reason for a car buyer to purchase the highest-end stereo system, since the extra speakers would be required for the AudioNav system.

PROS: It’s amazing! You should lobby for it to become a mandatory safety feature.

CONS: Probably will be expensive! You’ll have to buy the model without the sunroof in order to afford the AudioNav feature.