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WA introduces high-tech driving simulator

Driving simulator

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have received state government funding into a new advanced driving simulator. It aims to make the roads of WA safer by giving drivers the chance to experience being behind the wheel under all kinds of conditions in a safe testing environment.

The simulator will be based at the UWA’s Western Australian Centre for Road Safety Research, which the university says will be the only one of its kind in the world.

It has been jointly funded by the Road Safety Commission ($450,000), Main Roads WA ($160,000) and UWA ($100,000).

State transport minister Rita Saffioti says it will be a unique but forward-thinking step into making WA’s roads safer for all who use them.

“We are investing more than a billion dollars in key road safety initiatives like the Regional Road Safety Program, but funding new technology is another way we can help to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads,” she says.

“This technology will help us to better plan our road network by allowing us to test new designs in a simulated environment.

“Testing new road initiatives before they are implemented will save both time and money, enabling us to mitigate risks and cost effectively utilise our resources to make Western Australian roads safer and more efficient.”

UWA says the simulator will offer a safe testing environment to research:

  • testing new road layouts;
  • assessing driver distraction from roadside advertising;
  • studying at risk groups such as young and older drivers; and
  • testing the impact of the use of drugs, fatigue, and alcohol on driving skills.

It will allow not just road safety researchers to glean new information, but also provide opportunities for collaboration across multiple disciplines including engineering, ophthalmology, psychology, physiology and mathematics.

Road safety minister David Michael says that there is always more that can be done to make Australia’s roads safer, and this project presents a unique opportunity.

“Reducing trauma on our roads requires a sophisticated mix of initiatives including better roads and road layouts, safer cars, and changing driver behaviour,” he says.

“The Road Safety Commission takes a research-based approach to tackling these issues and this is why we have partnered with UWA’s Road Safety Research Centre.

“I believe this technology has the potential to make a real difference to long term positive road safety outcomes in Western Australia.”

The simulator will be able to give drivers a number of conditions to try and perform under, and will provide researchers with:

  • Adaptability – controlling and manipulating input variables such as behaviour of virtual traffic and pedestrians, weather conditions, and road design;
  • Repeatability and standardisation – participants can drive under exactly the same conditions;
  • Ease of data collection – accurate and efficient measuring of driving performance; and
  • Safety – safe environments free from crash risk and physical harm allowing drivers to be exposed to hazardous situations in a systematic way, which can be difficult to study in a natural driving environment.
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