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 The car of the future – sleeper cars and travelling offices too?
18.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

nachricht Self-driving cars for country roads
07.05.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CSAIL

All articles from Automotive Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Glacial engineering could limit sea-level rise, if we get our emissions under control

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Warning against hubris in CO2 removal

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Halfway mark for NOEMA, the super-telescope under construction

20.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>