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Car driving simulators and simulator sickness

A car driving simulator can be a great help during the driver training of young people. Apart from the opportunity these devices offer for systematic and consistent practice of many driving-related tasks, the use of such a system reduces total costs. Yet, there are two important reasons why they are still not being used very often.

The first reason it that young people often have waited a long time before they are allowed to start driving in a real car. They prefer a real car over a simulator because they see that as the real thing. If given a choice, many young people would also prefer to learn Spanish in a large extended vacation in Spain instead of in a classroom with books and a teacher in front of the class. Especially young males overestimate their driving skills and they think they will need fewer driver training lessons than on average. A simulator woild then only be an extra burden.

Apart from this misrepresentation of their own performance, there’s a second reason why simulators are frowned at. Driving instructors have a lot of driving experience and are often over 30 years of age. People with more driving experience who are over their twentees, have a higher risk on simulator sickness. That’s because they have become used to the interplay between visual input and vestibular input. So, when hey decelerate what they see and what they feel coincides. In a driving simulator, they see a deceleration and they know they decelerate, but they don’t feel it. And thats the reason they experience a form of ‘reverse’ motion sickness, called simulator sickness. Because the experience of that is so aversive, they come to dislike driving simulators. Their response is that they can’t believe it will do any good.

So both of the indicated reasons are wrong. The first one is based on an inadequate representation of skills and the seconds one is based on one’s own feelings. Young inexperienced drivers rarely experience any symptoms of simulator sickness.

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Car driving simulators

This is the post excerpt.

Training simulators were first utilized as a part of the military preparing division where they are utilized to show flying machine ,send , tank-and landvehicle control. Test systems are likewise intensely utilized as a part of room travel, and NASA has a total reenactment office for preparing space explorers. Test systems are utilized by Universities and research foundations to consider the impacts of street framework and in-vehicle-gadgets on driver conduct, see for instance the driving test system of VTI in Sweden. The greatest and most costly research driving simulator system on the planet is situated in Iowa. Outstanding amongst other known utilizations of preparing test system is ofcourse in pilot preparing for airplane. research simulator applications can be found in numerous studies into car driving.

Reenactment frameworks have been connected for a more drawn out time in driver conduct look into and the auto business, yet are progressively being utilized for driver training. Since the year 2000 driver training auto test systems are progressively being utilized by bigger driving schools in various nations. The cost of equipment has been diminished from that point forward which brought about some expanded use in different nations also, for instance, South Africa, The Emirates, Japan and the United States. The utilization of auto test system frameworks has expanding in various nations, expecially by driving schools that attention on high standards.However, since the driver preparing industry is genuinely moderate and not extremely innovation driven, there is still a great deal of advance to be made. Additionally, driver training in an auto is generally modest, so the money saving advantages of utilizing a driving test system for driver preparing are more constrained contrasted with figuring out how to fly an air ship. Be that as it may, in light of the fact that driver preparing out and about has various unmistakable impediments, figuring out how to drive in an auto test system is better as far as preparing proficiency.

Traffic psychology and driving simulator experiments

Here are a few abstracts of driving simulator experiments in Traffic Psychology.

EXPERIMENT 1: Speed Choice and Steering Behaviour in Curve Driving

The relation between speed choice and steering performance during curve negotiation was studied in a driving simulator. The hypothesis was that curve radius and steering competence both affect steering error during curve driving resulting in compensatory speed choice. In this, the control of safety margins was assumed to operate as a regulatory mechanism. Smaller curve radii resulted in a larger required steering wheel angle while steering error increased linearly with required steering wheel angle. This was compensated for by choosing a lower speed, such that the time-to-line crossing to the inner-lane boundary was constant over all curve radii examined. Steering competence was measured during straight road driving. Poorer steering competence also resulted in larger steering errors that were compensated for by choosing a lower speed such that the safety margin to the inner-lane boundary was unaffected by steering competence.

EXPERIMENT 2: Preferred time-headway in car-following and operational skills in expected braking reactions

In a simulator experiment the relation between preferred time-headway in steady-state car-following and operational competence in braking reactions was studied. The hypothe­sis that drivers with smaller preferred time-headways are able to react faster or generate a faster motor response per se was not confirmed. Also, no evidence was found for differences in perceptual processes related to the detection of braking by the lead vehicle be­tween short followers and drivers with a larger preferred time-headway. The results suggest that short followers generate a faster motor response when there is some uncertainty con­cerning the level and duration of decele­ration of the lead vehicle in case it brakes. The results suggest that short followers differ from long followers in the ability to transform visual feedback to a required motor response. However, the presence of brake lights is required for the relation between operational performance and choice of time-headway to hold, possibly because a change in feedback requirements, i.e. the absence of brake lights, is more detrimental for skilled performers.

EXPERIMENT 3: Choice of time-headway in car-following and the role of time-to-collision information in bra­king 

Time-headway (THW) during car-follo­wing and braking response were stu­died in a driving simulator from the per­specti­ve that behaviour on the tactical level (e.g. choice of THW) may be linked to ope­rational compe­tence of vehicle con­trol (e.g. bra­king) via a process of adapta­tion. Time-headway was con­sis­tent within dri­vers and con­stant over a range of speeds. Since time-headway repre­sents the time avai­lable to the driver to reach the same level of dece­lerati­on as the lead vehi­cle in case it brakes, it was studied whether choice of time-headway was related to skills underly­ing bra­king perfor­mance. The initiation and control of bra­king were both affec­ted by time-to-collision (TTC) at the moment the lead vehi­cle started to brake. This stro­ngly suppor­ted the idea that time-to-collisi­on informa­tion is used for jud­ging the moment to start bra­king and in the control of bra­king. No evidence was found that short followers differ from long follo­wers in the abili­ty to accura­tely per­ceive TTC. There was howe­ver eviden­ce that short follo­wers are better able to program the intensity of braking to required levels. Also, short followers tuned the control of braking better to the development of critica­lity in time during the braking process. It was conclu­ded that short follo­wers may dif­fer from long followers in programming and execu­tion of the braking respon­se.

EXPERIMENT 4: Time-headway in car-following and operational performance during unexpected braking

The relation between choice of time-headway during car-follo­wing and the quality of braking skills was studied in a driving simulator. The theoreti­cal perspective was that individual differen­ces in behaviour on the tactical level may be related to skills on the operational level of the driving task via a process of adaptation. In a sample of 16 young and middle-aged experienced drivers independent asses­sments were made of preferred time-headway and braking skill. Starting from modern theories of visual-motor learning, braking skill was analyzed in terms of a reaction time component, an open-loop visual-motor component, and a closed-loop visual-motor component involving the precise adjustment of braking (timing and force) to the situation. The efficiency of the visual-motor component of braking was a strong and significant predictor of time-headway in such a way that more efficient braking indicated a shorter preferred time-headway. This result appears to support the adaptation theory on an individual level.

 EXPERIMENT 5: The effects of deceleration on braking reactions as a function of preferred time-headway

The manoeuvre of braking for a decelerating lead vehicle was separated into three sequential processes that were manipulated independently. The initial time-headway to the lead vehicle at the moment it started to decelerate affected reaction time. Primary deceleration of the lead vehicle manipulated the duration of the open-loop phase. From the moment the driver touched the brake pedal, the deceleration of the lead vehicle was changed. This secondary deceleration was assumed to affect the closed-loop phase of braking. The hypothesis was that drivers who prefer a small time-headway during car-following (short followers) differ from drivers who prefer to follow at a large time-headway (long followers) in both the open- and closed-loop phases. In that case an interaction is expected between following group (short vs. long follo­wers) and primary deceleration on the duration of the open-loop phase and between following group and secondary deceleration on the duration of the closed-loop phase, the maximum brake force exerted and the number of movement corrections. In general terms, these predictions could not be confirmed. The lack of confirmation of the hypothesis is explained in terms of task characteristics that resulted in startle reactions and vigilance effects.

EXPERIMENT 6: Perceptual-motor skills and sensitivity to TTC as a function of preferred time-headway in car-following

Based on the results of previous experiments it was tested whether the sensitivity of the braking response to time-to-collision information differs as a function of preferred time-headway in car-following. In an experiment performed in a simulator time-to-collision was manipulated by  varying the level of deceleration of the lead vehicle with a pre-selected group of short and long followers. In addition, it was tested whether choice of time-headway is related to more general differences in perceptual-motor skills. It was found that short followers perform better at both lateral- and longitudinal tracking tasks and that the braking response of short followers is more sensitive to differences in time-to-collision. The results support the hypothesis that preferred time-headway is at least to some extent an adaptation to individual differences in operational braking performance and perceptual-motor skills.

Driver training in upcoming economies

In many countries that used to be so-called ‘third world’ countries, the standards of living increase and investments in infrastructure are rising. Also, in a number of other countries that go through a transformation politically and economically, investmentments in roads and the traffic system increase as well. Still, traffic deaths remain high in these countries and this is mainly because of the culture and habits of drivers. the focus on safety is usually low during driver training, and driver training in general is rather poorly developed. During driver training the focus is typically  on vehicle handling skills and not on safe traffic participation. Example are India and China. In these countries the pressure on the system is enormous: there’s a big increase in people who start to drive and the traditional driver training sector can not deal with that. In order to reduce traffic deaths in those countries:

  • driver training has to improve drastically: not only focus on vehicle handing skills but focus much more on traffic rules and traffic participation
  • increase the standards of the driver exams and use standardized tests for that to cope with the increased demands and limited capacity of the sector
  • change the traffic culture where people don’t follow the traffic rules. This can also be done during driver training but also via more efficient enforcement

If the traffic system is chaotic, learner drivers have a very hard time during their driver training. Because they have a problem with doing all driver tasks simulteneously: steering, checking the mirrors, anticipation far ahead, gear changing, lane keeping, use of indicator, etc. they can be overwhelmed by the chaos on the road. And then the training efficiency will be low.

In a car driving simulator, they can practice all tasks efficiently, because a driving simulator offers a much more structured environment in which to learn the skills needed for safe driving. Also, standard tests with traffc interactions are much better implemented in a driving simulator, compared to on-road exams.

Assessment of driver fitness and driver testing

Driver testing is normally done by testing how well someone drives a car during the driver licencing procedure when the driver is at young age.  This happens after an often long training during which the driver learns to drive a car safely. However, after brain injury, a stroke, or at old age it may become unsafe to continue driving and the question again rises if the driver is still fit to drive. The strange thing is that then this question is not answered by letting the driver perform a driver test but by filling out a questionnaire and maybe check the eyes, ears and a urine sample.

But existing tests for medical fitness to drive are not very predictive of safe driving. Safe driving is all about driving behaviour and the relation between these existing test procedures and behaviour is often lacking. This results in:

  • letting people pass the tests while in reality they are not safe drivers at all
  • depriving safe drivers unjustly of their driving licences

In the first case road safety is reduced while in the second case people are deprived of their mobility.

As an alternative it would be better if fitness to drive is assessed via standardized tests of driving-related skills. Assessment of fitness to drive differs from initial driver tetsing or youg people in 2 respects:

  • at older age, the driver already has extensive driving experience and does not need to learn to drive
  • at older age, the driver knows the traffic rules.

But their driving related skills may have deteriorated. Their information processing speed may have been reduced and because their capacilty may be reduced they may have started to use strategies to reduce the amount of information, for example by driving at a lower speed, of my reducing the time pressure, for example by giving themselves more time to peform a driving task or by avoiding situations with higher load. Examples are driving at daytime and avoiding rush hours, or only driving on familiar routes.

In a car driving simulator, test procedures can easily be standardized and reliable tst procedures can be developed for the assessment of fitness to drive.

Task automation and driver training

Driving a vehicle is a complex task that is composed of several subtasks that have to be performed simultaneously. Car driving is THE typical example of multitasking, and the most important reason why traffic accidents have increased during the last couple of years is distraction while driving mainly because of the use of smart phones. This has been studied with traffic psychology applications in driving simulators.

As driving experience increases during the first 2 years after the driving licence was obtained, driving tasks are automated more and more because of practice in those tasks. Consistent practice is the only way to promote task automation. This is a general rule for all skill acquisition, not only for car driving but also for learning to play an instrument or learning to become a good foodball player.

During traditional driver training, practice is generally not enough to become a good and safe driver. So, in the first 2 years after becoming a licenced driver, accident risk is the highest. That’s one of the reason that, especially male, young drivers are so over-represented in the accident statistics.

And this is why a car driving simulator can be such a big help during driver training: training in a driving simulator offers much better opportunities for consistent practice than the process of learning to drive in a regular learner vehicle with a driving instructor. Several subtasks such as steering, lane changing, approaching an intersection, negotiating a roundbout, car following, entering a highway, gear shifting, etc. can be practiced tens of times during half an hour in a simulator lesson while this is not possible in a real car on the public road.

Imagine what happens when an inexperienced driver enters the road:

  • look far ahead to anticipate on possible risks
  • change gears when RPM is too high
  • estimate road curvature to check is speed must be reduced
  • check the rear view mirrors before a deceleration
  • check the speed limit and dashboard meters
  • check immediate surrounding to watch for hazards
  • steer accurately to stay in the designated lane
  • etc

And all this simultaneously.  In driving 3 levels of behaviour are referred to:

  • operational performance: steering, using the pedals and actuators (indicators, etc)
  • tactical behaviour: controlling speed and safety margins such as a safe headway
  • strategic behaviour: route navigation and way finding

Young and inexperienced drivers find it sometimes extremely difficult to do all those things at the same time. If individual tasks are sufficiently practiced they become automated and thus require almost no attention. The limited amount of attention available can then be assigned to hazard detection and anticipation and this makes dring much more relaxed and much safer. During driving simulator lessons, all individual driving tasks can be practiced extensively, resulting is fast task automation, and thus more relaxed and safer driving when the trainee starts to drive in a learner car on public roads.