Driving Simulator | NC State ISE

Welcome to the ISE Driving Simulator

To make NC highways safer for everyone, researchers at NC State’s Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and System Engineering (ISE) are using a first-of-its-kind driving simulator.

This driving simulator has seven screens mounted to a moving platform, giving the person behind the wheel a 315-degree view. The car is also interactive with gear shifts, brakes, a steering wheel, and all the bells and whistles of a modern-day vehicle. It allows researchers to observe many important safety-critical cases without putting people at risk. For research purposes, the driving simulator is mainly used in areas like:

  • Human Factors
  • Advanced Vehicle Safety Systems
  • Cognitive Response
  • Physical Impairment
  • Distracted Driving
ISE student testing the new driving simulator

It is the first in the country to test a unique car simulator that features future technology distraction, something seen in only a handful of labs worldwide. The system gives a realistic feeling for how quickly a driver could get distracted by various prompts.

Current Research Projects

Distracted Driving

The usage of the Eye Tracking Systems on the driving simulator during researches.

Distracted driving is a major problem in the nation. It ranges from what’s on the radio to making calls and texting while behind the wheel. And experts say it is only going to get worse.

Jing Feng, associate professor of the Psychology Department, along with researchers from the ISE Department are working together to understand the human factors to promote safe driving and good interaction with upcoming technology and to make the best use of this technology.

Message Delivery in Manual and Automated Driving

ISE researchers use the driving simulator to make roads safer.

As self-driving cars become more prominent, future drivers likely won’t pay as much attention to the road. Professor Kaber and Feng are studying how those attention changes will affect how drivers interact with road objects, particularly signage.

Supported by a grant from the NC Department of Transportation, the researchers use the driving simulator to examine the best ways to deliver important signage information to future drivers. And it helps them navigate through the future when businesses could use digital advertisements that pop up on your GPS screens or other vehicle monitors, instead of on highway billboards.

Using the state-of-the-art driving simulator, the researchers will test how subjects respond to different kinds of in-vehicle messages during manual and fully-automated driving. They ultimately hope to develop preliminary guidelines on how to deliver signage information considering new vehicle technology.

Pinpointing the Needs of Older Drivers

Another project aims to help older drivers understand what cognitive changes come with age and provide training or advice that is tailored to those individual needs.

The end result could include training and rehabilitation methods for older drivers. That could mean pointing out typical driving situations that pose more risk to an individual experiencing cognitive decline, such as making left turns.

An Assessment of Safety and Geometric Design Criteria for Diverging Diamond Interchanges

The aim of the project is to investigate certain features of driver behavior when confronted by a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI). The use of DDI has become more prevalent throughout the United States over the past 3 to 5 years. However, there are no existing guidelines or standards for the design of this type of interchange currently.

The driving simulator offers users a highly realistic driving experience on or off-road either left or right-hand driving. Its software is also offered with an optional pre-built driver training environment & a range of different scenarios and emergency events.

With the help of the driving simulator, the research will identify, review, and evaluate the geometric design features and the associated safety and operational performance of in-service DDIs across the US. This information will then be utilized to develop recommendations for the AASHTO Technical Committee on Geometric Design for consideration as future geometric policies and guidelines.

Because the research projects on driving behavior are intricate and impact a variety of fields, the studies are often collaborative. Currently, the ISE Department has partnered with many other departments and agencies. They include the Department of Psychology, the Office of Research and Innovation, the NC Department of Transportation, the Institute for Transportation Research & Education, and others. Together, these agencies and researchers hope to prevent distracted driving by looking beyond what’s happening on North Carolina roads now and preparing for what could happen tomorrow.

Chris Cunningham (ITRE) explaining the driving simulation details
Chris Cunningham, the Director of the Highway Systems Group at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State explaining the simulation details.
Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden takes a test drive
Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden takes a test drive in the driving simulator which replicates many elements of the authentic driving experience.

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