Features of the DRiVE lab

Graduate students Caroll Lau and Lynn Dony in the simulator control room.

There are advantages to using driving simulation when studying driving

  • Simulators surround drivers in a virtual-reality driving environment and measure every aspect of driver behaviour. They permit drivers to be tested in challenging conditions that might be associated with real-life collisions without putting lives in danger.
  • Simulators permit close control of traffic events that are impossible to achieve in studies conducted in real-life driving.
  • Simulators permit the cost-effective pilot-testing of new in-vehicle technologies and new highway infrastructures under safe conditions.

Our lab houses an Oktal Driving simulator:

Hardware Features

  • The simulator makes use of a Pontiac G6 convertible with the engine removed. (Although the convertible has a roof, the open roof design permits the biomechanics of vehicle control use to be assessed using the overhead cameras from the state-of-the art VICON motion tracking system.)
  • The simulator sound and vibration transducers and force feedback system produce the sounds and sensations of driving.
  • Six 7-foot tall X 7-foot 2-inch wide projection screens, each permitting the projection of a 50 degree display, provide a 300 degree wrap-around virtual driving environment. Images are projected using six image generation PC’s (1024 X 768 resolution).
  • The simulator has standard vehicle controls, including temperature, radio, and lights.
  • Four miniature cameras  are placed inside for real time close-quarters visual monitoring. This enables researchers to film the driver from the front (head, shoulders, feet shot), the back (to film hand and control movement), and feet.
  • The simulator measures all aspects of driving performance, representing all driver inputs and all vehicle states. Audio and video recordings of the driver can also be made.

Software Features

  • The software suite is broken down into five modes: Terrain, Vehicle, Scenario, Simulation, and Analysis. These allow us to customize road networks and attributes of the vehicle, create code that runs events in the simulation, run the simulation, and analyze the data from the simulator.
  • Visual channels run at 60 Hz. The minimal lag between a driver action and the response of the system reduces the likelihood that the drivers will experience simulator adaptation syndrome (a feeling if discomfort that some people experience when tested in a simulator).
  • The simulator permits realistic modelling of many different road, weather, and lighting conditions and allows precise control of traffic events such as the behaviour of other drivers and vehicles in the simulated environment.
  • The simulator enables programming of complex and closely-timed interactions between actions and simulator events, necessary when studying attention switching between events.
  • The simulator’s scripting language and network interface are easy to use. This permits the simulator to interface with devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other technologies, with minimal programming.
  • The simulator can be run as an autonomous vehicle, permitting the analysis of driver takeover time and  the effectiveness of driver alerts.

Features: (Left to right, top to bottom). Overhead Vicon motion capture system permits analysis of physical ergonomics of vehicle- control use (Pictured in Image: Lana Trick and graduate students Heather Walker and Rylan Waring). Realistic modelling of different driving environments; Built-in onboard monitor for testing new in-vehicle technologies; Michele Oliver in the moving base simulator (the hexapod robot) which can be used with virtual realities created by the Oktal simulator and can also be used to assess the effects of vibration.

Advantages of the University of Guelph Simulator

  • The simulator involves an actual  car, which is useful for studies where the backseat is necessary (e.g. studies on the effects of passengers on driver behaviour).
  • Oktal’s SCANeR software suite allows for completely customized road environments.
  • The Oktal driving simulator is a high fidelity system (better graphics, vehicle dynamics, and modelled traffic environments). There is more programming flexibility and measurement precision (vehicle movements, driver responses).
  • This system is versatile and has been used successfully with other equipment such as eye track monitors, iPods, and smartphones, and in testing driver alerts and driver takeover in autonomous vehicles.
  • The DRiVE lab also features a moving base simulator which permits testing driving performance with actual movement when used with the virtual reality generated by the simulator. (See the picture above of Michele Oliver in the moving base simulator.)