Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UI researchers use SIREN driving simulator to study driving risk factors

21.08.2003


Surrounded by projection screens, a blue Saturn sits in a basement room in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. If you look very closely, you can see several tiny video cameras inside the car, and a glance under the hood gives a whole new meaning to the term "souped-up."

In the space where the engine normally resides sits an array of electronic instrumentation that turns this ordinary vehicle into a high-fidelity driving simulator known as SIREN (Simulator for Interdisciplinary Research in Ergonomics and Neuroscience). These instruments allow Matthew Rizzo, M.D., UI professor of neurology, engineering and public policy, and his colleagues, to record and analyze in detail the actions and reactions of the driver. It also allows them to look for scientific answers to the kind of questions that have been circulating in the media recently such as when and how do age-related deficits make a person an unsafe driver?

"The big issue is whether there is a good way to predict who is likely to be an unsafe driver?" Rizzo said. "It is not feasible for everyone to have their own driving simulator to test patient’s driving abilities, but it is feasible to have paper and pencil tests that correlate well with simulation studies and real accident data.



"What we want to develop is a series of a few tests that are simple and reliable and that can be easily administered," Rizzo said.

SIREN, which is uniquely positioned within UI Hospitals and Clinics, may be less well-known than the UI’s other driving simulator NADS (National Advanced Driving Simulator), which is located at the Oakdale campus and has the largest motion base of any simulator in the world. However, Rizzo and his many collaborators are extremely busy with projects using SIREN and are very excited about the results their studies are starting to produce.

"We are not interested in studying vehicle dynamics in the way that NADS can," Rizzo said. "Rather, we use SIREN to study how drivers react and act under various conditions."

SIREN is one tool used by the UI researchers to collect data on driver behavior and study what affects driver behavior. Multiple sensors collect information from the simulator including the positions of the steering wheel, the brake and the accelerator pedals. Cameras observe the driver’s gaze and also the driver’s feet, and a device mounted on a baseball cap worn by the driver allows researchers to track a driver’s eye movement and examine how they scan their visual environment.

The simulator’s sophisticated computer programs can generate multiple driving scenarios populated with many other vehicles. These scenarios are projected onto the screen around the simulator and provide the driver with a front and back view of an on-road scene.

The researchers can program the virtual vehicles in the simulation to drive legally or illegally. For example, a virtual car may enter an intersection illegally and unexpectedly create the potential for a crash, or a virtual car in front of the simulator driver may brake suddenly. The researchers use scenarios like these to observe how drivers react and find out if they are able to avoid potential accidents. It also allows researchers to investigate drivers’ attention to multiple obstacles that are added to the environment.

Driving studies are also conducted using an instrumented car called ARGOS (Automobile for Research in Ergonomics and Safety) that is actually driven on the roads. The UI researchers, in collaboration with Digital Artefacts, P.C., at Oakdale, also have developed a new PC-based driving simulator tool. This tool was inspired by the modern aviation information displays found in sophisticated airplanes and used by pilots to monitor the skies. Using enhanced visual cues, the tool allows excellent situation awareness on a small screen, and can be used to test drivers’ decision-making and other abilities.

In addition to these hi-tech devices, the researchers also use a range of cognitive and visual testing procedures, which allow them to analyze abilities including visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and motion perception. Neuropsychological tests allow measurement of driver attention and decision-making ability.

"It is very important that we consider all the evidence, from neuropsychological tests to hi-fi simulations, and examine what the relationships are among performances on these tests," Rizzo said. "We want to know how performance on a low-tech, easily administered neuropsychological test is related to performance in the highly realistic SIREN simulator or to actual driving behavior measured in the ARGOS vehicle. These kinds of comparisons will help us develop simple testing methods to predict a driver’s risk."

The researchers hope that these tests could help improve the ability to predict levels of risk in drivers and to develop methods to reduce injury.

Age is one factor that has recently been linked with risky driving. In response to the concerns about elder driver safety, the American Medical Association has recently developed a guide to help physicians assess and counsel older drivers. However, Rizzo points out that age itself does not cause risky driving rather it is conditions associated with aging such as decreased attention, decreased vision, decreased mobility and dexterity, and slower reaction times that adversely affect driving.

Although the role of age-related conditions on driving ability has become a focus of discussion, Rizzo explained that many other factors may make people risky drivers. These factors include medications, neurological disorders such as mild Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, brain injury from stroke or a head injury, and even lack of sleep, which is a common problem for many modern Americans.

Although it might seem very likely that drivers with brain injury or disease are at-risk, the UI researchers have evidence from SIREN studies showing that some people with mild Alzheimer’s disease can navigate fairly well and drive quite well in the simulator.

"Should the authorities penalize those drivers based on diagnosis of the disease alone, or should we monitor their performance and measure when they actually become unsafe?" Rizzo said.

Common medications used to control conditions, ranging from blood pressure and cardiac function to allergies to psychiatric diseases such as depression, can also have potential cognitive side effects such as drowsiness, which would affect driving ability. Rizzo and his colleagues intend to use SIREN to investigate how people drive when they are taking various medications. The simulator could help determine what levels and types of medications cause drowsiness that leads to unsafe driving without putting someone at risk on the road.

SIREN also has been used to safely assess the effects of alcohol and illicit drugs on driving behavior. Together with visiting Dutch scientists, Rizzo and colleagues recently found evidence that abstinent younger users of common recreational drugs of abuse, "Ecstasy" (MDMA) and marijuana, showed impulsive behavior during decision-making while driving in SIREN compared to non-drug users. "There are lots of people who have physical problems, problems with medicines, problems in relation to lifestyle and no one knows anything about how these things affect individuals’ driving," Rizzo said. "We are can address all these issues with the simulator and our other tools.

"SIREN is an incredibly complicated system and it has taken a lot of time and effort to get it up and running, but it works and we are getting good data and we have many projects under way. It is an exciting time."


STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT(S): Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917, jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu

Jennifer Brown | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiowa.edu/~neuroerg/index.html
http://www.uihealthcare.com

More articles from Automotive Engineering:

nachricht 3D scans for the automotive industry
16.01.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Improvement of the operating range and increasing of the reliability of integrated circuits
09.11.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

All articles from Automotive Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>