Honda Funds New OSU Lab for Distracted Driving Research
“Now some drivers will have a place to go where they can get as distracted as they want,” writes Chris Woodyard in USA TODAY. He is referring to Ohio State University’s (OSU’s) new $1.3 million Driving Simulation Laboratory, which will help researchers learn more about driver distraction and how to prevent it, according to an OSU press release.
Located on the university’s Columbus campus, the 5,900-square-foot facility was developed by OSU’s research office, Honda R&D Americas, and the Ohio Supercomputer Center, writes Alisa Priddle for the Detroit Free Press. Honda, which was the main funding source, will get exclusive use of the facility, Priddle notes.
The OSU press release discusses how the lab will function:
‘It will allow scientists to monitor peoples’ heart rate, eye movement and stress levels while they are in a realistic driving environment,’ said Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president for research at The Ohio State University. ‘This new lab is designed to offer a visually immersive and realistic driving experience that will allow researchers to study how people actually react and behave behind the wheel.’ Weisenberger continued. ‘Researchers from Ohio State, Honda R&D, and other partners will have the opportunity to collaborate on projects that will make driving safer for everyone.’ […]
A vehicle frame mounted on a platform with six degrees of motion freedom will give people in the simulator a sense of motion much like that of riding in a real car. The simulator screen, served by five high-resolution projectors, will curve around the drivers for 240 degrees, offering a realistic view of a driving task. In some setups, there will even be LCD side mirrors, offering drivers a view of what is behind them in a particular driving scenario. The vehicle dynamics — things like steering feel, braking, and suspension — can be changed in software to approximate the driving experience for different cars.
Among its many uses, the lab will provide automakers with a place to test their products, the press release says, because they are required to by new federal regulations: “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to announce new guidelines this fall that aim to ensure that drivers don’t become too distracted by entertainment and navigation systems in cars.”
Automakers will be able to test their prototype systems in the lab early in the design process, when it is less expensive to make design changes, Weisenberger said, which is more cost-effective than testing only the production version of the systems.
“One of the most exciting possibilities for this new lab is how many different kinds of projects can be done here,” Weisenberger said. The OSA press release says that she is especially interested in how the lab will foster collaboration, and for projects besides engineering ones. She said that researchers from linguistics, neurology, psychology, speech and hearing science have all expressed an interest in using the lab. The new facility also allows researchers to study how special populations — such as teenagers and the elderly — may differ from others in how they respond to different driving situations.
Another benefit of the new lab is that it will create jobs in Ohio. The state’s Board of Regents is providing $250,000 to help fund the lab, with an emphasis on its potential for job creation.
“Simulation work is going to become more and more vital in all kinds of industries, not just the auto industry,” Weisenberger said. “We have the opportunity to train students who will become a very valuable asset to Ohio industries. This trained workforce may serve to attract new companies to Ohio and help many companies that are already in the state.”