Driving Simulator

UCC’s Driving Simulator Laboratory is also home to the People & Technology Research Group. The lab is well equipped to study the cognitive aspects of driving and has attracted doctoral scholarships from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Road Safety Authority (RSA). The lab consists of a control room where researchers can observe experiments in action and a blacked-out testing room where the simulators are housed.

Full-Size Driving Simulator

This is a full-size, 5-door Volkswagen Polo with force-feedback steering, pedals, a gearstick, tachometer and speedometer. The simulator faces three, 3-metre-diagonal screens angled at 60º to produce a 180º, immersive forward view. A screen placed behind the vehicle projects rear-view images which the driver can view using their rear-view mirror, while two smaller LCD screens display wing-mirror images. STIsim software can be used to create a variety of simulated driving environments, allowing the researcher to manipulate all aspects of the road scene (road layout, signage, cyclists, pedestrians, animals, lighting, weather conditions and other vehicles which interact with drivers’ behavior). As the simulator is housed inside an actual vehicle, the creation of adjunct situations (such as the experience of accompanying passengers) are also possible. The simulator can measure a wide variety of driving variables (speed, reaction time, lane position, pressure placed on individual pedals, etc.) and there is radio equipment which can be used to record verbal responses (e.g. mood evaluation, hazard appraisal, etc).

The full-size simulator is equipped with a SmartEye eye-tracking system. This technology uses 4 remote cameras and infared flashes to monitor the eye-movements of drivers. These cameras are mounted across the dashboard and allow the driver to move around and drive as they normally would, unrestricted by head-mounted equipment. Information about drivers’ eye-movements (e.g. breadth of scanning, duration of fixations, etc) is often used to achieve a more through understanding of driving behavior.

The simulator can also be used in conjunction with other equipment such as our Neuroscan 32-channel EEG/EKG suite.

Portable Driving Simulator

This simulator uses the same STIsim software as the larger vehicle but is entirely portable. The simulation is displayed across three screens and the vehicle is controlled using a desk-mounted steering wheel and a panel of pedals. This simulator can be used outside of the lab and as also useful for researching the driving behavior of disabled populations. STIsim software also provides realistic audio simulation (engine sounds, horns beeping) and these are relayed via speakers inside the vehicle. This can also be used for other purposes (playing music, sat nav instructions, etc).

Driving simulator in action

The full size driving simulator in action with the SmartEye eye-tracking software running in the foreground. Visible on the dashboard are the remote cameras used to capture drivers’ eye-movements.

Both pieces of simulator equipment can be seen here

The full-size simulator is housed in the testing room, while in the control room, the experimenter can monitor the driving scene and real-time data via the simulator computers.

Driving simulator in action

Driving simulation of a suburban scene. LCD screens can be seen providing wing-mirror views.