UofT Engineers to keep roads and drivers safe

Located deep below street level, the state-of-the-art DriverLab simulator will develop new insights to help keep roads and drivers safe.

0 January 2, 2018
Staff

u of t driver simulator

Professor Geoff Fernie (IBBME), at left, and student Philippa Gosine test their DriverLab simulator. DriverLab is the only simulator of its kind in Canada and offers a safe way to study a range of human variables in realistic traffic and weather conditions. (Credit: Neil Ta)

With autonomous vehicles becoming more and more of a reality and road safety a hot topic, University of Toronto Engineering researchers are looking to develop new insights to help keep roads and drivers safe.

Located deep below street level, the state-of-the-art DriverLab is the only simulator of its kind in Canada.

The simulator offers a safe way to study a range of human variables in realistic traffic and weather conditions.

“What we learn here could pave the way to help seniors maintain the ability to drive through something like a conditional licence that would allow them to drive on city streets during the da,y,” explains Professor Geoff Fernie (IBBME, MIE), director of TRI’s Research Institute.

The team is also looking into other variables like whether cars should be equipped to recognize drowsiness in the driver and respond by turning the radio up or rolling down the windows to keep the driver awake.

At the centre of the simulator sits an Audi A3 sits on a turntable—a six-metre-square sphere called a payload built on a hydraulic motion platform.

The team boasts that it is just like being on a real road. The drivers using the simulator can feel life-like conditions like a bump in the pavement or air turbulence from a passing transport truck. The car is surrounded by images cast by stereoscopic projectors that create driving scenarios from quiet residential streets to bustling highways and country roads.

This simulation is one of the first of its kind to realistic reproduce headlight glare and rain as well as mimic the experience of driving through ice and snow. Researchers are also able to program a number of different obstacles into the simulation.

The U of T Engineering team hopes to answer questions about the safety of driving while using medication and the unique variables that an affected driver would have on the road.

Questions about the ways people interact with semi-autonomous vehicle features and driverless cars will be explored, too.

Fernie says DriverLab differs from other simulators because it was built specifically to test people, rather than to help car makers improve their designs or study the driving experience.

www.engineering.utoronto.ca


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