When you hear a siren while driving, there’s always that moment of indecision as you try to figure out what direction it’s coming from. The new iHear system is designed to help, by indicating the direction on a dashboard display.
Created by Canadian startup Soltare, iHear is intended for use in both traditional and self-driving cars, as an aftermarket retrofit or as a factory-installed standard feature. It incorporates a total of four low-cost weatherproof MEMS microphones, located at each corner of the exterior of the vehicle.
Initially, just one of those mics is required to detect the sound of an approaching siren. Once a siren has been detected, the system utilizes three of the mics to triangulate the location of the source of the sound. This information is displayed on a dash-mounted unit, with a red LED indicating which side of the car the emergency services vehicle is approaching from.
The driver – or the autonomous driving system – can then take the appropriate action. In its current form, the setup can reportedly detect and locate sirens from a distance of up to half a kilometer (0.3 miles).
It should be noted that several other companies have recently developed siren-locating systems of their own. According to Soltare president Warren Sheydwasser, however, iHear’s standout features include the facts that all of the processing instantaneously takes place on an inexpensive microprocessor within the vehicle (as opposed to on a cloud-based server), plus the system isn’t data-hungry.
“The proprietary method of digital signal processing that we’re using requires a very low level of data versus traditional DSP [digital signal processing], and as such can run on the CAN bus [controller area network] of a car,” he explains to us. “If you have a feature on the car that’s a data hog, you can imagine clogging up the CAN bus with data – you’ll make other systems on the car not perform.”
iHear was first unveiled at the CES trade show in January 2018, but when might it actually reach production? Sheydwasser says that Soltare has been talking with several automotive suppliers, and that the system could be commercially available within a few years. Its cost would depend on variables such as whether or not it would be built into the vehicle’s existing electronics, but the figure should be “three digits or less.”
The technology is demonstrated in the following video.
Company website: Soltare