The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) is involved in most areas of transport research. The development of new vehicles is subject to ever-increasing demands regarding both environmental impact and safety. The activities at VTI must support the fast-paced developments in the transport sector, regarding all levels. This means that VTI is involved in large-scale research projects revolving anything from human behaviour in traffic systems to new vehicle electronics.
VTI evaluates the current status and future developments of both track-bound vehicles (trams and trains) and road vehicles. Areas of interest include tyre characteristics, evaluations of driver assistance systems and active safety systems. In addition, VTI dedicated large amounts of resources to research concerning energy-efficient vehicles and model-based development of built-in vehicle systems. One of the most important areas is the dynamic human aspect, where human interaction with vehicles and various assistance systems is of interest for further study.
World-class driving simulators
When it comes to human interaction with vehicles and vehicle assistance systems VTI studies human behaviour using simulators. In many cases it is a matter of being able to understand complex connections. Simulation is being used to an increasing extent both in industry and the research community. One reason is that it is generally more cost-efficient. Another is that it involves no risks for the subject, which in this case is a human vehicle operator. In some real-life tests, VTI uses robots instead of humans as the risk is too great to expose human subjects to.
“At VTI we have developed and implemented our own world-class driving simulators in Linköping and Gothenburg. At the Lindholmen Science Park in Gothenburg we have installed our latest simulator, the Sim IV. This simulator is used for very advanced tests in close to real-life scenarios”, explains Jonas Jansson, Head of Research at the VTI Traffic and Road User Department.
Jonas Jansson’s research group is particularly interested in how the driver is affected by factors like new technology, driving dynamics, road design, drugs and alcohol, tiredness and driver support systems. With the current simulator systems, repeatable experiments can be carried out and realistic driving experiences created. This makes it possible, among other things, to study the effect of the driver’s condition and the use of driver support systems on driving performance.
Experiments tailored to current needs
VTI:s engineers have extensive experience relating to evaluation of vehicle systems. Regarding driving experience, there are very few simulators that can match those that VTI have developed and are now operating at full capacity.
“We also have advanced facilities for measuring tyre-to-road friction, for example. We can conduct powerful tests using robots as operators instead of humans, but these tests are very expensive to run and therefore we would like to focus on using our simulators as much as possible before we conduct the final tests of any new application. These must always be carried out in real-life scenarios, still using robots, of course”, Jonas Jansson continues.
The VTI simulator environment is unique. It currently comprises three large, advanced driving simulators, a smaller training simulator and a rail simulator. The institute uses an in-house developed source code. VTI can therefore offer experiments tailored to the needs of any vehicle developer in the world today. The facilities are also open to researchers at external partner institutes like for example Chalmers University of Technology.