Virtual Reality Driving Simulator

virtual reality driving simulator

Virtual Reality Driving Simulator

Using a VR driving simulator allows researchers to collect data without needing to modify participants’ vehicles or take them out on the highway. It also offers a cost-effective solution for training purposes.

This study aimed to examine whether the temporal characteristics of drivers’ glance behavior when traveling past latent hazards (total virtual reality driving simulator glance duration and average glance duration at each hazard) can be measured with VR headset-based driving simulators.

Realistic Environments

Recent advances in optics, HMD design, and 3D graphics chips for personal computers make it possible to create a virtual reality driving simulator at a reasonable cost. A HMD with a field of view (FOV) of 50o diagonally can be obtained for about $20,000. A 3D graphics processor with a high frame rate costs about $400. The combination of these technologies makes it possible to develop a VR driving simulator with a realistic and emotionally involving experience that can be used to assess drivers who have cognitive impairments.

One of the first things to establish when developing a virtual reality driving simulator is what the general appearance of the road environment needs to be. This can be a geospecific representation of real-world roads and their surroundings, or it could be a generic and fictitious road environment. Once the general road environment is established it then needs to be populated with features including buildings, vehicles and other objects. It also need to be decided whether the environment is going to be driven during the day, night or both and this will impose additional requirements on the development process as appropriate lighting effects need to be incorporated.

The final part of the setup is the vehicle and this will require a driver seat, steering wheel and pedals. It is important that the driving simulation software supports these items because they are crucial to the simulator’s functionality. Typically the best approach is to use an Agile methodology which allows for iterative development and rapid testing of prototypes with users.


A VR driving simulator recreates the look and feel of a real world environment, including weather and road conditions. These simulators can also be used to test a driver’s skills and provide feedback on performance. Researchers use eye-tracking systems to measure where participants are looking and physiology sensors such as Ag/AgCl electrodes to collect data from a wearer’s photoplethsymography (PPG) response and heart rate.

Unlike a normal car, virtual reality driving simulators are safe to drive and can help reduce the number of accidents. In addition, they can be used to train drivers on different driving maneuvers without putting them at risk. This can help to improve safety on the roads and reduce insurance rates.

For example, the University of Virginia School of Medicine uses a room-sized simulator to assist people with autism learn to drive. Now, it plans to turn the simulator into a portable mixed-reality experience that can travel with users. This could greatly expand the simulation’s reach, enabling more people to practice driving safely.

One of the challenges of using a virtual reality driving simulator is the difficulty in measuring human performance. The virtual reality driving simulator amount of fidelity required for effective measurement varies by research study, population, and task, and it is difficult to find the right balance between fidelity and cost. This is especially true because it’s more expensive to develop and maintain high-fidelity simulators than low-fidelity ones.

Ease of Use

Researchers use VR driving simulators to help people learn how to drive, particularly for those with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism. The full-sized simulator at Cox’s lab mimics the cabin of a car, complete with seats and steering wheel. The virtual world in which the user drives is populated with cars, pedestrians and buildings. Children practice looking left and right before crossing roads and waiting for traffic lights to signal it’s safe to proceed, then move on to faster moving traffic and more complex scenarios.

The simulator was designed to convey visual and haptic messages that promote eco-sustainable driving behavior. It uses a gaming driving seat and a headset, such as the Oculus Rift, to deliver immersive virtual environments. Haptic stimulation is delivered to the accelerator pedal through a vibration device and visual stimuli are displayed on the virtual head-up display. The simulator also records the location of the vehicle in the virtual environment and the direction the driver is facing.

A trained research assistant is present during the VR driving simulation to monitor participants for signs of simulator sickness and to switch to a non-immersive view if necessary. The research assistant can also observe the participant’s performance and logged data, including how fast the vehicle travels between checkpoints, the indices of passing each checkpoint, and the vehicle’s trajectory in Cartesian coordinates and with respect to Unity axes.


A virtual reality driving simulator allows drivers to practice maneuvers in a safe environment without risking their own or other people’s lives. The technology can also help improve the skills of new drivers and increase road safety. It can even help reduce road rage by providing an immersive experience that lets users practice in a controlled environment before facing challenging situations.

The University of Virginia’s Daniel Cox has developed a room-sized driving simulator to help people with autism spectrum disorders feel comfortable behind the wheel. His simulator is a full car chassis with a seat, steering wheel and pedals that’s surrounded by large projection screens. A 120-Hz eye-tracking system tracks where participants are looking and a photoplethsymography sensor collects electrodermal and heart rate responses.

Researchers can test a variety of driving scenarios in the simulator and measure every aspect of driver behavior, including reaction time, lane positioning and turning trajectories. This can help researchers to better understand the causes of real-world collisions and develop safer cars. Simulators are also cost-effective for testing new in-vehicle technologies and highway infrastructure.

One of the challenges with VR is that the user’s movements are not accurately reflected in the virtual world. This can result in a high incidence of simulator sickness, especially with multi-display systems. A recent study showed that a simulator that uses three displays has a higher risk of simulator sickness than one with a single display. The problem is that the simulation’s graphics are rendered from a view of the vehicle that corresponds to where the participant is looking, rather than from the perspective of the car. This can cause a strong tendency to steer in the direction that the user is looking.

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