Texting and talking on a cell phone while driving are just two of the behaviors that engineers at the new $1.3 million
OSU Driving Simulation Lab
will be studying.
The state-of-the-art facility, located on the university’s campus, is the result of a partnership between OSU, Honda Research & Development of America
(HRA) and the Ohio Supercomputer Center
According to Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president for research at OSU, engineers and researchers will use the lab to study a wide range of driver behaviors. “The overriding goal for studies conducted at the lab will be the design of vehicles that will minimize driver distraction, reducing the incidence of accidents and improving auto safety. Other goals include gaining a better understanding of human perception, cognition and attention to help create new vehicle designs that are less stressful and more enjoyable for drivers.”
The lab will be available for use by university, industry and government groups to investigate how drivers interact with, and react to, a wide variety of in-vehicle systems, vehicle characteristics and external driving situations. Users can also study special populations, such as teenagers or elderly individuals, or evaluate the effects of fatigue on driving accuracy.
Weisenberger points out that the auto industry can use the lab to evaluate new designs for infotainment systems in a vehicle that can minimize driver distraction, and a university researcher could study basic mechanisms of attention and cognitive workload.
The facility boasts three simulation setups with a full array of hardware and software, according to John Dirrig, senior manager/chief engineer, Corporate and Technical Communications for HRA, “The hardware includes projection screens, motion simulators and user interfaces and equipment for measuring eye movements and gaze, as well as physiological correlates such as blood pressure and heart rate. The software allows the researcher to simulate different driving scenarios, like urban, freeway, or suburban settings, and to alter the vehicle dynamics of steering, braking and other characteristics to simulate unexpected occurrences in different weather, road and lighting conditions.”
The lab is being funded by HRA and the Ohio Board of Regents. “Additional funding from the Honda-OSU partnership is supporting operation costs as we bring the facility on line,” Weisenberger notes. “Ultimately, we hope to support operations from user fees and research grants.”
Sources: Jan Weisenberger, John Dirrig
Writer: Lynne Meyer