Simulation is a powerful tool for transportation research, offering total control of environmental and traffic conditions and complete security when examining safety-critical issues such as driver distraction and impairment. The HumanFIRST Laboratory operates one of the most advanced driving environment simulation systems at any academic institution in the United States, giving our researchers access to state-of-the-art research tools not available elsewhere.
Immersive Driving Simulator
The driving environment simulator (DES) is an immersive driving simulator originally manufactured by Autosim AS and upgraded by Realtime Technologies. The DES operates with a 2002 Saturn SC2 full vehicle cab with realistic operation of controls and instrumentation including force feedback on the steering and realistic power assist feel for the brakes.The simulator provides high fidelity simulation for all sensory channels to generate a realistic presence within the simulated environment. The visual scene is projected to a high-resolution (1.3 arc-minutes per pixel) five-channel 210-degree forward field of view with rear and side mirror views provided by a rear screen and LCD panels.
A custom-fitted glass cockpit includes a dashboard LCD display and center stack touch-screen display that can replicate any configuration of vehicle gauges and display. The touch-screen center stack can create any variety of vehicle-user interface including navigation systems, phone/email/text interfaces, audio systems, environmental controls, and research-oriented secondary tasks.
Any road environment can be created in the simulator, including precise reproductions of geo-specific locations under a range of realistic lighting and weather conditions. Auditory and haptic feedback is provided by two separate 3D surround sound systems (internal and external), car body vibration, and a three-axis electric motion system which create roll, pitch, Z-axis motion within a limited range of movement (partial-motion). The simulator is compatible with Simulink, enabling additional components or control systems to be readily integrated into the system.
Additional devices are fitted to support the design and evaluation of vehicle telematics systems and auditory, visual, and haptic feedback interfaces. DES can be integrated with a 40-channel psychophysiology recording unit to support the measurement of driver brain activities (e.g., Evoked Response Potential (ERP) paradigms), a high accuracy eye-tracker that uses specialized software to determine which specific objects the driver is looking at in the dynamic 3D world. A haptic seat and accelerator pedal are installed that enable a variety of feedback cues to be presented to the driver. Collectively, the DES allows for the comprehensive measurement of driver performance in terms of behavioral metrics, subjective experience, and psychophysiological response.
Portable Driving Environment Simulator
The Portable Driving Environment Simulator manufactured by Realtime Technologies is a complete driving simulator mounted on a portable chassis. The portability of this simulator allows the HumanFIRST Laboratory to conduct human factors related research at remote locations (e.g., retirement centers and rural communities) or at sites where it is inconvenient for participants to travel to the simulation facility at the HumanFIRST Laboratory. The portable simulator utilizes the same scenario software as the immersive simulator, enabling research experiments to be readily transferred from one simulator to the other without additional development costs.
The portable simulator consists of a driver seat, vehicle controls (pedals, steering, and transmission), and vehicle gauges on a custom-fabricated chassis. Three 32-inch high-definition displays provide the forward view with rear-view mirrors displays inset on the forward view. A LCD panel provides a dashboard using the same display software as the immersive simulator on a smaller screen, enabling any configuration of display or gauge to be utilized.
The use of identical simulation software allows a ready means to exchange research devices between the simulators. The psychophysiology recording unit, eye tracker, and Simulink control modules are examples of systems that may be readily exchanged between simulators.