Sound and Automated Cars
Does sound influence and enhance user experience in highly automated cars? That’s what Pole Position Production, RISE and Volvo Cars are currently evaluating. The first results are in.
The research project Sonic Interaction in Intelligent Cars started last years and is aiming to examine the potential in sound as a medium for communication in highly automated cars. The first test was carried out earlier this year and Pole Position Production designed the soundscape for the test environment used in the project.
As part of the project, the project team has also evaluated how users experience different types of sounds.
In the first test we used melodic sounds, natural sounds and some sounds that were a bit more futuristic. We started out with pretty intense sounds and gradually toned it down. The test results showed that users responded best to sounds that were not too intrusive, says Linus Anderberg, project coordinator at Pole Position Production.
The test took place in a VR demonstrator where people got a simulated experience of highly automated cars. The main question asked was if users’ feeling of trust and safety in highly automated cars can be influenced by interactive sounds.
During the test the users experienced two different test environments. In one of them sound continuously informed the users of the car’s intentions regarding speed and that the car was aware of what went on in the vicinity like approaching bicycles or a pedestrian getting ready to cross the street. In the other test environment users where not continuously informed by sound.
And the result was clear, the feeling of trust was higher when users were informed of what was going on. The vehicle was perceived as more intelligent and overall user experience was better with sound, says Johan Fagerlönn, senior researcher at RISE.
One of the hypotheses in the project is that highly automated cars will allow users to spend their time in the car in more productive way and perform activities such as working on a computer or watching a film or a TV show. However, there is a concern that the possibility to perform these activities may be limited due to the risk of motion sickness. In August, the project team starts to evaluate if sounds designed by Pole Position Production can reduce motion sickness in highly automated cars.
We also have the hypothesis that highly automated cars will increase the risk of motion sickness since human drivers usually give the cars’ passengers some clue to what’s going on. The tests will be carried out by Volvo Cars. This time we are using reals cars, but the driver will be concealed from the research subjects in some way in order to create a feeling of a highly automated car, says Johan Fagerlönn.
The research project, funded by Vinnova, will continue throughout this year and one further test will be carried after the motion sickness test.