The Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center (CTSRC) is in the process of obtaining a fully loaded, traffic safety driving simulator! The advanced driving simulator, a full-size, four-door sedan, will have no engine and will be almost fully encircled by three large projection screens, similar to Images 1 and 2 below.
Various driving scenarios and environments can be generated and displayed on the projection screens to simulate driving events in the real world. Simulation programs will be created to study how research participants react to driving in a multitude of circumstances such as inclement weather, at night, on the highways or in heavy pedestrian and bicyclist traffic.
In addition to the full-size car, there will also be a desktop simulator for participants to interact with (Image 2). Some of the accompanying software of the desktop simulator will allow the CTSRC and other users to collect data pertaining to the user’s physiological responses to the driving environment. With the help of sensors, we will have the capability to track the eye movement, facial expressions, heart rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) of participants, all while the simulation is taking place. Something as subtle as the furrow of a brow or nose wrinkle will be captured and included in the overall analysis of that simulation event. Analyzing these physical responses will help us better understand some emotional reactions to certain variables within the driving environment. For instance, a person’s GSR can tell us more about their emotional arousal or stress level, which can expose high risk driving scenarios and help to explain observed driver behavior. This kind of data collection and analysis is ideal in any human behavior research.
The CTSRC has issued calls for research proposals and welcomes interest from a diverse set of disciplines. The driving simulator has already garnered interest from several potential research partners, both within and outside of the traffic safety community. The simulator, expected to be up and running within the next year, will be housed at the CTSRC, located at UConn’s depot campus in Storrs, CT.
Photo sources: Image 1 – http://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/home.detail.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2014/Apr/0421-super-cruise.html; Image 2 – CTSRC; Image 3 – http://www.airport-technology.com/contractors/noisemonitoring/bruelkjaer/presshyundai-refines-ride-quality.html