New driving simulator a boon to driver behaviour research

ONE of the most advanced driving simulators in the southern hemisphere will be housed at Curtin University to help analyse driver behaviour.

The Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre (C-MARC) and independent road research body ARRB Group today unveiled the simulator at Curtin’s Technology Park Campus.

Officially launched by Road Safety Minister Liza Harvey, the simulator will enable C-MARC and ARRB to undertake highly sophisticated driver behaviour and road infrastructure research with private sector automotive researchers from all around Australia.

The simulator capsule has 360-degree full-wraparound visuals of a fully functioning Kia car, with genuine transmission, clutch, brake, accelerator and power steering systems.

Director of C-MARC Lynn Meuleners said the simulator recreated the forces, loads, sounds and feel of real-world driving and would be used for road safety research such as driver distraction and autonomous driving.

Researchers can control and manipulate variables including the behaviour of virtual traffic and pedestrians, weather conditions, and road design.

“Drivers are exposed to hazardous situations in a systematic way in a safe environment, free of crash risk and physical harm, which is difficult to study in a natural driving environment,” Professor Meuleners said.

“The simulator’s program standardises drivers’ experiences, meaning they can be repeated and participants can drive under exactly the same conditions.

“This is important so we can collect accurate data for a range of research projects including testing novel road layouts, assessing driver distraction from roadside advertising, as well as studying at-risk groups such as young and older drivers.”

The simulator is already gaining attention from road authorities, transport companies and other researchers looking to investigate subjects like innovative road designs, fatigue and distraction.