Housed at the university’s Technology Park campus, six kilometres from the Perth CBD, the CKAS Mechatronics simulator's installation is the product of the collaboration between Curtin University and independent road research body, ARRB Group.
Officially launched by Deputy Premier and Minister for road safety in WA, Liza Harvey, the university says the simulator will enable the Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre (C-MARC) and ARRB to undertake “highly sophisticated driver behaviour and road infrastructure research” by recreating the forces, loads, sounds and feel of real-world driving.
The simulator capsule with 360-degree ‘full-wraparound’ visuals actually contains a fully functioning Kia car (although the model isn’t specified), with a genuine transmission, clutch, brake, accelerator and power-steering system.
Professor Lynn Meuleners, Director of C-MARC, said: “[The simulator] will be used for road safety research such as driver distraction and autonomous driving”.
“Drivers are exposed to hazardous situations in a systematic way in a safe environment, free of crash risk and physical harm, which is difficult to study in a natural driving environment.”
“The simulator’s program standardises drivers’ experiences, meaning they can be repeated and participants can driver under exactly the same conditions,” “this is important so we can collect accurate data for a range of research projects including testing novel road layouts, assessing driver distraction from roadside advertising, as well as studying at-risk groups such as young and older drivers,” Professor Meuleners added.
Dr Paul Roberts, Principal behavioural scientist at the ARRB Group, said the simulator was already gaining attention from road authorities, transport companies and other researchers looking to investigate driver fatigue and distraction.
“While it is impossible to truly mimic the characteristics of real-world driving, this simulator comes very close thanks to its cutting-edge audio, visual and motion technology that creates a completely immersive experience for the driver,” Dr Roberts said.
“We’re able to test things like driver distraction issues in vehicles with driverless technology (eg. Tesla Model S), without needing to put the driver or car at risk, or even build the driverless car for that matter.”
The simulator's installation was jointly funded by the ARRB Group and Curtin University, also bringing together researchers from multiple disciplines including; road safety, engineering, ophthalmology, psychology, physiology and mathematics.