In the spirit of continuing on with our ‘driving simulator myths series’ (see Part 1 for the previous installment), I can’t help but comment on a puzzling trend: Hexapod-based driving simulators continue to be deployed despite the body of evidence that their time has come and gone.
Some might assert that autonomous personal vehicles are being developed to improve safety, reduce fuel consumption, decrease urban infrastructure strains, and so on. But let’s be honest: One of the key economic “drives” for this technology, no pun intended, is related to the prospect that people will have new time windows in their days in which to consume visual media. However, due to some fundamental aspects of human physiology, this lucrative ambition may prove to be more difficult to implement than imagined.
In the early stages of specifying and deploying any new Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulator, one of the most common considerations is the integration with 3rd party hardware and software tools. For example, you may already have an in-house solution for vehicle physics simulation, or you may have existing Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) test benches that must be connected to your DIL simulator.
Can a “turn-key” DIL simulator that is, by default, an all-inclusive offering, give you the seamless connectivity with your preferred tools that you need? Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no – and finding this out with certainty involves looking beyond a rote specification summary.
Side-stepping entertainment applications, automotive driving simulators have historically been purposed almost exclusively towards human behavioral studies – and to good end. Inside the safe, controlled confines of a driving simulator lab, researchers can, for example, assess a driver’s performance while impaired from alcohol consumption, or explore the implications of driver distraction.
Laboratories such as NHTSA’s National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) at the University of Iowa in the USA have been used for countless studies that have directly contributed to improvements in highway safety. Furthermore, some automotive manufacturers use driving simulators to observe and/or survey typical drivers’ interactions with infotainment systems and ADAS interventions.
These are still the early days for the human-machine interfaces (HMI) that will be crucial to the success of autonomous vehicles. And it’s unclear whether cross-industry standards will emerge regarding the application of autonomous technologies – not just in terms of functionality, but in the way that conceptual HMIs convey functionality to drivers / occupants.
A racing driver sits at the ready before the start of a qualifying session or race. Gripping the steering wheel, he looks straight ahead, then into each mirror, wondering, “Is this real or virtual?”
A decade ago, such a question would not have even occurred to a driver. At that time the distinction was self-evident: You were either sitting in a real car at a real race track, or sitting in a driving simulator, or playing a video game – and it was blindingly obvious which was which.
Nowadays, the fidelity of Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) driving simulators and video games has increased to the point where the line has been blurred. In some cases a driver’s senses may not be able to clearly distinguish the various realms.
As evidenced by a flyer put out this last weekend by Costco, retail treasure hunting has never been better for automotive enthusiasts. More specifically, buying a driving simulator has never been easier. Appearing between advertisements for a garden shed and a box of cookies, the flyer shows a “full motion driving simulator.” Now to be fair, Costco is famous for spicing up its consumer product offerings with specialty shopping cart items. But a driving simulator?
Advances in mobile, laser-based measurement and surveying technologies – the same technologies that are currently informing autonomous road car and ADAS developments – can be used to create remarkably realistic virtual racetracks for gaming applications and simulations. In the case of engineering class Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulators, which are amongst the most demanding applications, LiDAR ( Light Detection And Ranging ) has become the go-to technology for digitally recreating high-resolution roads and tracks.
Dean Stoneman is one of Britain’s most talented young racing drivers. A former FIA Formula 2 champion, GP3 racer and Red Bull Junior Driver, he’s delivered race-winning performances in almost every series he’s competed in and this year will make the move up to Indy Lights with Andretti in the USA. He’s also an experienced test driver, with extensive simulator experience at the very highest level with Williams Advanced Engineering and the Red Bull F1 simulator.
Regulations and restrictions play an increasingly important role in the look and feel of modern racing. Motorsport series such as NASCAR, Formula 1 and IndyCar seek to simultaneously engage their audiences and maximize racing-related revenues, so a balance must be struck between unbridled speed and careful control.