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Highly realistic driving simulator helps develop safer cars

EUREKA project E! 1493 ULTIMATE has led to the development of a highly sophisticated simulator to improve car design and increase road safety in Europe using novel mechanical, display and software technology.

Simulators can make a major contribution to vehicle design and the study of human driving factors. However, they have been of more limited value for road vehicles due to the large linear motion needed (for e.g. when turning corners or during braking). As a result, the cost of suitable car simulators had been prohibitive.

Dutch, French and UK partners in the ULTIMATE project combined expertise in car design, motion platforms, displays and software to develop a highly cost-effective new simulator design that will allow a more detailed study of human behaviour when driving road vehicles, as well as the trial and development of new aids to improve performance and safety for vehicle users. The ULTIMATE simulator is compact and modular with a choice of conventional screen or head-mounted virtual reality displays supplying information on car performance and visibility - from the very beginning of vehicle development.

Overcoming mechanical constraints

New design and materials were essential to the project. “We needed to overcome the mechanical constraints of earlier simulators to be able to accelerate for a sufficient duration of 1 to 3 sec at 0.1g for example in X and Y axes with a high payload,” explains ULTIMATE project leader Dr Andras Kemeny, head of the Renault Technical Centre for Simulation and Renault’s expert in driving simulation and virtual reality. ULTIMATE took an innovative and particular cost-effective approach, resulting in a low overall weight for the simulator – around 3.5 tonnes. It uses a compact six-axis platform mounted on a second large linear motion bi-directional frame that allows peak accelerations of up to 7 m/s2 in X and Y directions.

Advanced virtual display

An on-board 150° cylindrical screen provides a lightweight display that supplies full motion performance. Alternatively, when physical component integration is impossible or impractical, the driver can use a high-performance, head-mounted display (HMD) that makes it possible to drive in a fully virtual cockpit. The display systems were developed by UK partner SEOS; the HMD in the EUREKA E! 1924 CARDS project. “SEOS was involved in the project from the beginning and contacted Renault for information about track simulation. We became involved as an original partner pulled out. We asked for modifications and encouraged other partners to join. A second EUREKA project – MOVES – will extend the work of ULTIMATE to optimise the software and the motion algorithms. This new project is being led by our ULTIMATE project partner CNRS (the French National Centre for Scientific Research),” says Dr Kemeny. “EUREKA played a crucial role both in providing access to funding and in offering a coherent legal structure for co-operation over the research period. Without such a structure I believe we could not have done this project.”

Catherine Shiels | alfa
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