Acoustic Vehicle Communication for Quiet Vehicles

The issues of being too quiet – a thesis proposal from Cab Engineering, Volvo GTT

Electromobility is going through rapid development. Some of the benefits are increased efficiency, reduced emissions and a potential for decreased environmental impact. Electric vehicles also emits less noise – especially during low speed driving. Reducing noise increases comfort, both for the driver and people in the vehicles close surroundings, but when vehicles become too quiet, it brings issues to the communication with other road users.
The issues of being too quiet – Why we want to run this thesis work
In the interplay between vehicles and other road users sounds are vital for communication. If people fails to notice approaching vehicles or misinterprets their intentions, the risk of accidents increases. For drivers, situations like driving in city streets, where pedestrians, bicyclists, electric scooter drivers continuously crosses the road gets more tedious if the vehicle can’t be noticed by its sound. For other road users, having a big vehicle like a truck or a bus suddenly appearing without any forewarning can be a freighting experience. For some user groups, such as visually impaired, the noise of approaching vehicles is crucial.
To increase traffic safety, new legislations are being applied, demanding all quiet vehicles to produce sounds through Acoustic Vehicle Alert Systems (AVAS). For the European market, UN R138 applies. The legislations only states the bare minimum, gaps needs to be filled and a lot of questions remains in order to create the best possible vehicle/road user communication.
This is why we would like to run this thesis work. We want our vehicle to be safe, have the best vehicle/road user communication and create the best impression of our vehicles and the Volvo Brand.
Vehicles in scope
The vehicles in scope will be quiet trucks, (Volvo FH/FM), in the speed range of 0 – 30 km/h. Buses and construction vehicles can be considered but cars are out of the scope due to the differences in size and appearance.

Possible research questions
Below follows a list of possible research questions. We think the thesis should focus on some of these questions. Other questions can be suggested – either from Volvo or the University/Student side. The selection should be discussed by all parts and decided upon mutually.

  • Visual vs auditory information – should AVAS solely be used for awareness/conspicuity OR should it also communicate direction, in combination with direction indicators?
  • In what ways can AVAS communicate vehicle intentions through continuous sounds?
  • What is the impact of directing sounds to different sides of the vehicle?
  • What is the impact of different speaker positions?
  • What is the most efficient way of communicating vehicle intentions through sounds in different situations? Examples of situations are listed below:
  • Take-off from standstill
  • Driving with heavy loads – high torque output
  • Turning/indicating a turn
  • Reversing
  • Truck specifics; docking, loading, charging, manoeuvring at construction sites, terminals etc.
  • How can the vehicle achieve audible communication while minimising noise pollution?
  • How can external sounds add value to users of Volvo’s vehicles?
Suitable background
Engineering student at Master’s level with background in Industrial Design Engineering, Interaction Design, Product Development or Psychology student on Master’s degree level. Preferably a cooperation between two students with different educational backgrounds. We see that our thesis workers are self-driven and curious with high interest in user research, traffic safety and human-machine interaction.
Description of thesis work
The thesis work will be run according to a proven approach to reach success.
  • Work in a pair to secure a significant result and personal development
  • Start from studying the user
  • Be 100% present at Volvo as members of the ordinary group
  • Regular follow-up meetings to share results and plan ahead
For the specific topic of this thesis work, we foresee the following important activities
  • Benchmarking of current AVAS solutions in other types of vehicles
  • Interviews with drivers for user understanding and identifying critical situations
  • Field studies in relevant work locations for understanding the context
  • Various tests at different stages of the work to explore/verify concepts/ideas
  • Establish measurable requirements based on the findings
  • Choose promising concept ideas for continued development of solutions
  • Identify potential partners that can help to provide solutions to the chosen problems
  • Perform verification of the concept solutions against the established requirements
  • Make final development into a mock-up
  • Perform validation with drivers to prove the benefits of the chosen concept
Cab Engineering at Volvo Group Trucks Technology (Volvo GTT) are responsible for developing the cabs for the different truck brands. At cab engineering, the department of Ergonomics & Driver Interface are responsible for keeping track of driver needs in order to establish requirements to verify the future concepts.
Starting date: Early spring 2020 and ending before the summer vacation ~July 2020
Tutor: Billy Astorsson

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The Volvo Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction equipment and marine and industrial engines under the leading brands Volvo, Renault Trucks, Mack, UD Trucks, Eicher, SDLG, Terex Trucks, Prevost, Nova Bus, UD Bus and Volvo Penta.

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