Nuance’s Dragon Drive system which powers the voice command feature for a substantial number of car makers has added Siren detection to its bag of tricks. It does what it says on the tin – automatically detecting the distinct sound of an emergency vehicle’s siren and makes sure the driver acknowledges the approaching vehicle via visual and audio notifications. Subsequently, the driver should be able to quickly adapt to the situation and give way. The system will also turn the music volume down to increase awareness.
This is actually a very useful feature considering since vehicle occupants are constantly being distracted by phone calls, app notifications, that hot girl driving in the next lane during evening rush hour… all manner of stuffs. The top distraction in my book is the loud music pumping out from multi speakers, rendering the sound of a siren noticeable only at the last second. The latter is important to note because Siren detection is designed to filter out music received from microphone signals using acoustic echo cancellation.
You may argue that flashing lights should be a better indication for the presence of an emergency vehicle. Sure, but only during night time. Plus, once you really get into a car karaoke session belting out Eminem’s Stan, flashing lights merely add to the atmosphere
What also makes Siren detection effective is that it requires no additional hardware. The microphone used for voice command and the new feature’s software is enough to achieve reliable recognition in adverse acoustic conditions and at low signal-to-noise ratios. While no new gear is needed, the car still needs to have the codes loaded.
Nuance reckons that this new feature is a crucial part of semi- and fully-autonomous driving where the vehicle can give right-of-way to emergency vehicles automatically. “Today the siren detection is mainly based on audio signals so vehicles can be detected even if they are out of sight. Once additional sensors like radars, lidars and cameras become standard in new vehicles, or emergency vehicles communicate their location and routing via car2x communication, our technology will be able to fuse and leverage these additional sensor results,” says Friedrich Faubel, principal research engineer at Nuance.
Want to know what cars use Nuance’s system? The new Proton X70, among others. Imagine the SUV detecting an oncoming ambulance and courteously telling the driver to move, “Woii!”