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Research Projects (2009-10)

Identifying Number


Project Title

Driver Simulation


University of Utah

Project Investigator

Peter T. Martin, Professor
University of Utah Traffic Lab
122 S. Central Campus Dr. Rm 104
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0561
Phone: (801)581-7144
E-mail: peter@trafficlab.utah.edu

Description of Project Abstract

Traffic flow is modeled by sophisticated mathematical models such as "VISSIM" and "PARAMICS". Driver behavior is modeled using physical driver simulators. So we have traffic flow theory and behavior theory. A major obstacle to the integration of traffic flow modeling and behavioral research methodologies and is that neither is well equipped to handle the level of measurement detail provided by the other. Traffic micro-simulation cannot easily accommodate driver profile nuances reported in behavioral research and behavioral research methodologies have not historically considered the influence of traffic flow characteristics on driving performance. Although the current misalignment between single-driver behavioral research and traffic flow modeling make it difficult to explore the dynamic interplay between traffic characteristics and individual driver behaviors, a number of inferences about the likely relationship can be made through joint consideration of current traffic flow theory and relevant profile characteristics of distracted drivers.

Driving simulators are not used to the extent that they could for two reasons. First, the results of driver simulator research do not always agree with real-world experience, or with results from field studies. Second, behavioral results from two different driving simulators may produce different results. These latter differences may be due to the physical differences between the two simulators. A simulator may or may not have a motion base or sophisticated graphics. Transportation engineers would be more inclined to use driving simulators if the findings of results could be transformed to take into account the characteristics of the driving simulator. Such transformation functions, if they can be derived, would more accurately predict real-world driving behavior from driving simulator behavior, and would make it possible to more readily integrate results from different driving simulators.

Project Objective

The research objective is to develop a set of mathematical transformations which will allow better prediction of driver behavior of drivers in real environments based on the results of experiments conducted in driving simulators.

Project Approach/Methods

The following major tasks are proposed:

  1. Scope, specify, and procure a driving simulator.
  2. Design some basic traffic flow/driver simulator experiments.
  3. Report.

MPC Critical Issues Addressed by the Research

1) Focus Areas Addressed by Research: FA 11 - Traffic Operations and Management.

2) Critical Issues Addressed by Research:

  • FA 11 - Longer-term traffic strategies.

Technology Transfer Activities

If successful the potential payoffs for such research could include:

  • A shift in the fundamental behavioral transportation research paradigm, changing the way highway engineers think of and conduct behavioral research;
  • A complementary family of driving simulators, each with different capabilities, could be developed worldwide, to efficiently fill the needs of a wide variety of potential research users;
  • Engineers would use driving simulators more and be able to better communicate results;
  • It will be easier to identify behavioral research projects which can benefit from using a driving simulator, because we will know what type of variables are amenable to transformation; and
  • In addition to being useful for highway safety and operations research, findings should also be applicable to the use of driving simulators in training and driver assessment.

Time Duration

July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010

Total Project Cost


MPC Funds Requested


TRB Keywords


NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050