Tech: Ford's "Noise Vision" Technology

It has long been known that Ford competes directly with Chrysler and GM.  After reading a press release on their new “Noise Vision” technology, I have to wonder if Ford isn’t aiming far higher than its domestic rivals, at least in one aspect of their vehicles.  Ford’s new technology allows engineers to “see” the sounds intruding on a car’s passenger compartment and subsequently engineer those sounds out.  More details following the jump.

Toyota has been doing something similar for the past few years, but whereas Toyota masks the sounds with noise-cancellation software and the car’s speakers, Ford’s system allows engineers to rid the car of unwanted noises altogether.  This hardware approach is much easier and more effective, as a software-based system just can’t cope with the multitude of scenarios presented by being in a car.  For instance, how does the software react if a window is opened, or better yet, just opened an inch or so?  How does it react when there are people in the car, in some seats, but not all?  There are lots of permutations to deal with, and getting rid of a noise in the first place is just smarter, if you ask me.

To understand why I say that, let’s look at how the two systems work.  Toyota uses similar technology to noise-cancellation headphones, which listen to outside noises and play the opposite noise through the speakers in the headphones, along with the music you’re trying to listen to.  Toyota uses the car’s speakers in much the same way, playing the opposite of the engine’s noises.  Contrasting this, Ford has developed a system wherein a sphere, fitted with over 30 ultra-sensitive microphones, is placed in the passenger compartment of a car.  The system listens to the noises in the car and records reams of data.  Software then goes through the data and creates a picture of the sound in the car, pinpointing areas that need improvement, whether it be a squeak, rattle or wind noise.  Designers and engineers can then change the parts which created the noise to get rid of it.

Ford has used this technology to make its 2010 F-150 truck the quietest in its class, and the 2010 Ford Flex and Taurus both get high marks for quietness.

Getting back to my earlier statement about Ford trying to compete with Lexus, the Lincoln MKS and MKZ beat the Lexus GS and ES, respectively, for quietness.  With “Noise Vision”, look for Ford’s vehicles to get quieter still.  On other fronts, Ford is replacing a lot of its aging engines with EcoBoost, as well as the standard engines for many vehicles with new designs to make them quieter and more fuel efficient, and developing (or adapting) better platforms to base their cars on, which will better compete in the marketplace with foreign rivals.

by John Suit

Source: Ford, Toyota

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