Hyundai Developing Tech to Aid Hearing-Impaired Drivers

South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) took the wraps off new technology at CES this week that translates sound-based information into visual and sensory cues for hearing-impaired drivers.

The Audio-Visual Conversion (AVC) and Audio-Tactile Conversion (ATC) technologies employed by HMG uses algorithms to locate, determine and visualize sound-based information – the siren of an approaching ambulance, for instance.

The algorithms are then sent to a Heads-Up Display (HUD), which sends out vibrations and illuminates the steering wheel in different stages.

The wheel is also equipped with multi-colored LEDs to indicate navigational information while driving.

The company claims the technology helps provide hearing-impaired people with a safer and more comfortable driving experience.

As part of an effort to publicize the technology, Hyundai created a campaign video called Quiet Taxi aimed at showcasing how drivers with impaired hearing could use the platform.

The video was the result of an open invitation initiated by Hyundai Motor Group to collect stories from hearing-impaired drivers. A taxi driver named Daeho Lee is featured in the video to showcase the technology.

As a hearing-impaired driver, Lee needed to constantly rely on his vision, which caused fatigue at a rate many times that of the average driver.

The video shows how hearing-impaired drivers like Lee can now interact with their external environment through the technology.

“While I may not be able to hear their voices, I certainly can understand how they feel,” Lee explained at the end of the video. “I will try to drive safer and kinder.”

CES proved a busy venue for the company this week.

The South Korean unveiled a “walking car” concept at the show, which puts a set of wheels on retractable legs to convert a prototypical rolling car into a quadruped for crossing broken ground or climbing stairs.

The Elevate concept is based on a modular EV platform with the ability to change different body pods to suit various anticipated roles. Four robotics legs have five degrees of free movement plus wheel hub propulsion electric motors. Hyundai claims this design is capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits, allowing it to move in any direction.

The carmaker displayed several animations, including a video showing an ambulance traversing broken ground, a taxi backing up stairs and even a simulated crash where it climbs itself out of the snow-covered ditch to rejoin the highway.

Hyundai also announced this week that it had developed technology for wireless electric vehicle charging and automated parking, the Automated Valet Parking System (AVPS), which allows the driver to order their EV to charge using their smartphone.

When the car receives this order, it drives itself to the nearest wireless charging station. Once it is fully charged, it can supposedly detect the nearest unoccupied parking space and drive itself there or return to its driver if they order it to do so via the AVPS app.

Earlier this month the company claimed a world first in bringing fingerprint recognition into its range.

Hyundai plans to debut the fingerprint technology, which will allow drivers to unlock doors and start the vehicle, in the new generation Santa Fe SUV model launching in the first quarter of 2019.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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