Evaluating road design through driving simulators

Science topics February 2016 InnovationTransportModelling and computer simulationHuman behaviourRoad safety

Jean-Michel Auberlet - Researcher LEPSIS COSYS, Lara Désiré - Researcher DTerOuest Cerema and Florence Rosey - Researcher DTerNC Cerema

The development and marketing of driving simulators has helped democratise their use, even if the issue of the transferability of the results remains a clear challenge. Even so, their use, essentially by researchers, has shaped our ideas and even provided some practical solutions.



Simulators for appraisal and harmonisation

In the framework of the RoadSense project, an IFSTTAR driving simulator has been used to evaluate three audio-tactile warning devices (rumble strips). The main purpose of these is to avoid roadway departures and head-on collisions on county roads. In this case, the main value of the simulator was to enable us to test corrugated devices installed at the centre and/or edge of the road. These are used a great deal abroad because of their effectiveness, but are not yet used in France, or only experimentally on a few motorway sections. The simulator experiment therefore made it possible to test these devices prior to an experimental appraisal on real roads. The ultimate purpose was to be able to propose rumble strip configurations that are suitable for the French county road system. It would then be possible to draft installation recommendations that would help to harmonise these networks.

A future application of driving simulators concerns what signing to use to show when hard shoulders are open to traffic. Currently, a number of signing devices are used both abroad and in France on an experimental basis. An evaluation of the impact of the different variants on driver behaviours using a driving simulator will help us develop recommendations in order to propose specific signing for this situation with a view to harmonisation.

While fostering road innovation…

In the SARI project the use of IFSTTAR simulators has enabled us to identify appropriate road designs for vertical crest on straight roads prior to their construction. This research has demonstrated the positive impact of rumble strips (experimental laboratory devices) and night-time markings that are visible during rain under real conditions for an application other than that for which they were designed. In the framework of the promotion of products developed during the SARI project, representatives of motorway companies have expressed their interest in the driving simulator based road design method.

One possible future use of driving simulators is to serve as a decision-making aid tool for road design and road improvements. In order to evaluate the constraints involved in this type of use, CEREMA has considered a highway project1 that aimed to implement the “Self explaining and calming roads”2 concept. This research, which used CEREMA fixed-base simulator and IFSTTAR’s driving simulation software, has identified the challenges that face this type of use, in particular the creation of the best possible visual database of the geometric characteristics of road projects. It also allows us to develop techniques to facilitate transfers from highway design tools to 3D simulation tools.





Evaluating road design through driving simulators - Ifsttar - The CEREMA driving simulator

The CEREMA driving simulator




And sharing professional knowledge and expertise

The feedback from the experiment has revealed two challenges. The first consists of establishing methodological gateways between researchers and civil engineering departments. This is because more systematic use of driving simulators means that it is necessary to facilitate and accelerate the transfer of road projects from design tools to simulation tools. During this transfer the geometric characteristics and the features of the road must be retained as far as possible. Firstly, this means the findings are more widely applicable and secondly, it means that road managers can take account of the results of these studies. The second challenge relates to the link between two worlds, that of researchers who evaluate the impact of road design by measuring the behaviours of individual drivers and that of road managers who evaluate the performance of highways by measuring the behaviours of vehicle flows.

Pour aller plus loin ...

  • Vienne, F., Caro, S., Désiré, L., Auberlet, J-.M., Rosey, F., Dumont, E. (2014). Driving simulator: an innovative tool to test new road infrastructures (poster 18336).  In Proceedings of the 5th TRA, Transportation Research Arena, 14-17 April, La Défense, Paris, France. Access the publication on Madis (Ref. DOC00019502)
  • Auberlet, J-.M., Vienne, F., 2014, Dossier 'I.A. & Systèmes Immersifs', Bulletin de l'AFIA, 82, pp.10-13. 
    Access the publication on Madis (Ref. DOC0002146)
  • Auberlet, J. M., Rosey, F., Anceaux, F., Aubin, S., Briand, P., Pacaux, M.P., & Plainchault, P. (2012). The impact of perceptual treatments on driver's behavior: From driving simulator studies to field tests—First results.  Access the publication on ScienceDirect
  • Auberlet, J-.M., Pacaux, M.-P., Anceaux, F., Plainchault, P., Rosey, F. (2010). The impact of perceptual treatments on lateral control: a study using fixed-base and motion-base driving simulators. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42 (2010), pp. 166–173. Access the publication on ScienceDirect