Ford: Hear One.

Despite what you may think, that is not a bowling ball behind the wheel of that Ford sedan, nor is that an android in the passenger’s seat.

F

Despite what you may think, that is not a bowling ball behind the wheel of that Ford sedan, nor is that an android in the passenger’s seat. That is actually part of what goes on inside the Ford Drivability Test Facility in Allen Park, Michigan.

And it is “officially” known as the “Noise Source Identification Tool,” although the folks around the lab generally call it “Noise Vision.”

Now the bowling-ball is actually a device that is equipped with more than 30 microphones and 12 cameras. As Bill Gulker, Ford’s leader of Wind Noise Engineering, puts it, “The key to world-class interior quietness is to pinpoint the source and location of every unwanted sound, no matter how subtle it is.” Which is what Noise Vision does.

Specifically, the data collected by the bowling ball, I mean Noise Source Identification Tool, as well as that from his partner, Mr. Android (more officially known as an Aachen Head), is processed and transformed into a computerized image, like this:

 

F

That information allows Ford engineers—and they are the first in North America to be deploying the Noise Vision gear, according to Ford—to pinpoint windnoise, squeaks, rattles, road noise, or unpleasant engine notes. In the more conventional approach, which relied on things like ears, it could take days or weeks, as it was primarily predicated on trial-and-error:

“Sounds like it is here.”

“OK, we’ll fix that.”

Sometime later:

“How’s that?”

“Nope, I can still hear it. And now there’s another noise.”

“[expletive deleted]”

“Noise Vision already is paying off for Ford, with the new 2010 Taurus, Fusion, Flex, and F-150 achieving the quietest interiors in their class,” says Gulker.