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TRIMIS

Virtual reality systems for perceived ergonomic quality testing of driving task and design

VIRTUAL

Virtual reality systems for perceived ergonomic quality testing of driving task and design

Background & policy context: 

VIRTUAL aims at developing innovative VE systems for vehicle testing where the driver could be able to simulate real driving tasks at a high level of coherence with reality in terms of behaviour and perception. The innovation and technological potential of such tools towards the improvement of new vehicles and towards potential application for the training of drivers is commented in the following considerations. Actually ergonomic activities regarding vehicles are performed in three main steps:

1. Development of criteria to be used for the subjective assessment of the vehicle quality.

Such criteria are obtained via experimental tests involving subjects on physical mock-ups (real and/or simplified). The method requires extensive testing on several parametric variants of the vehicles involving panels of subjects representative of different anthropometric characteristics, visual capabilities, driving behaviours. Such methodological activity is performed off the vehicle development process and is rather expensive (many mock-ups, many subjects) to obtain results sufficiently representative of the drivers' population.

2. Methodological support, numerical and experimental, to the concept design of the vehicles, prior to the availability of physical prototypes.

The numerical methods analyse the interaction of a digital representation of the human with a digital representation of the vehicle. Such representation range from simplified 2D mannequins interacting with schematic layout of the cabin up to 3D mannequins interacting with 3D models of the vehicle derived from CAD/CAS descriptions. The aim is to provide an ergonomic assessment of the design solution covering aspects such as visibility, posture, and reach of the controls. The evaluation criteria used are those derived from the development activities described above, in addition to standard criteria of general validity. The experimental methods are carried out to obtain a preliminary ranking of different design options by a direct testing with subjects using simplified mock ups of the different solutions. The limitation is the poor representation of the real context and then the real representativity of the subjective ranking in view of the final perceived quality.

3. Application to vehicle refinement and problem solving.

The numerical methods are similar to those used in concept design, the experimental methods can be carried out on prototypes. In general then it is possible to perform more refined ass

Objectives: 

The main objective of the project is to develop an integrated platform, based on Virtual Reality (VR) technology, including systems for testing and related experimental procedures, to be used for better studying and improving the ergonomic design of the vehicles, in the process of making the driving tasks simpler and more comfortable and then of increasing safety. The driving idea is to make available testing systems where a person can interact with a virtual representation of the vehicle and perform realistic evaluation tests on relevant aspects of the ergonomic quality of the vehicles, such as internal and external visibility, reach and operation of the main controls such as steering wheel and gear shift, perception of lateral and rear visibility during manoeuvring.

Methodology: 

The project intends to develop three types of systems characterised by increasing levels of virtualisation of the vehicle to be tested and corresponding complexity of the hardware and software devices.

  1. The first system aims at reproducing a level of presence of the inner and outer environment of the vehicle suitable for the assessments of internal and external visibility.
  2. The second system aims at introducing the tactile interaction with the controls of the vehicle, simulated by physical mock ups with controlled interactive force feedback, while giving the person the visual representation of his/her movements (avatar) in the virtual environment by means of appropriate techniques of motion tracking, capturing and graphical reproduction.
  3. The third, most sophisticated, system aims at substituting the physical mock ups of the controls by more generic force effectors (haptic interfaces) able to give the person the sense of reaching and operating a real control (existing and defined only in the virtual environment) coherent with its characteristics as represented in the virtual environment.
Institution Type:
Institution Name: 
European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN)
Type of funding:
Key Results: 
  • The methods developed during the project based on VR can improve significantly the quality and the validity of the ergonomic evaluation of the vehicle and can reduce the risks and the costs of problem solving after prototyping. In fact the approach used by the VIRTUAL project, which exploits VR technologies on their whole, allows to acquire data working directly with real subjects in a detailed and realistic environment, and thus to keep psychological perception aspects inside the evaluation of ergonomic quality, usability, and visibility during the driving tasks.
  • The first system consists in a projection system with actuated primary controls. This system was completed in June 2001 and it was tested in Autumn 2001.
  • The second system consists in an more immersive simulation, with an head Mounted Display. The person is given a visual representation of his/her movements (avatar) in the virtual environment by means of appropriate techniques of motion tracking, capturing and graphical reproduction. The system was completed in February 2002, and in March 2002 the firsts tests started. A second variant of this system was realised: the steering wheel and the gear shift were moved away so that the interaction with these controls occurred just thanks to the visual cue, through the graphical interaction between the hands of the avatar and the graphical models of the controls.
  • The third system aims at substituting the physical models of the primary controls by a generic force effectors able to give the person the sense of reaching and operating a real control (existing and defined only in the virtual environment). This system is an immersive system with virtual controls (steering wheel and gear shift) and haptic feedback with exoskeleton for the right upper limb. For this kind of system a third visualisation device was used: the CAVE. Different variants of the system were integrated in the CAVEEE at IAO in Stuttgart: at first the primary controls were maintained (November 2002), then the exoskeleton was integrated (December 2002).

Policy implications

The project aims at improving the ergonomic quality of the vehicles and then to have impact on quality of life, health and safety due to the relevant amount of time spent by European citizens on vehicles (1.1 hours per day on average according to a recent MIT study). Then VIRTUAL project performed tests with the aim to train people to drive a car in virtual environement, so social benefits are expected from the potential application of VR based vehicle testing systems for education and for training, for instance in driving schools or in mobility centres for disabled or elderly users.

Road

Key Findings

No results directly relevant to this theme. However, please note that some findings relevant to the project's key theme (User Aspects) are generically applicable.

Policy Implications

No policy implications directly relevant to this theme. However, please note that some policy implications relevant to the project's key theme (User Aspects) are generically applicable.

User aspects

Key Findings

The methods developed during the project based on VR can improve significantly the quality and the validity of the ergonomic evaluation of the vehicle and can reduce the risks and the costs of problem solving after prototyping. In fact the approach used by the VIRTUAL project, which exploits VR technologies on their whole, allows to acquire data working directly with real subjects in a detailed and realistic environment, and thus to keep psychological perception aspects inside the evaluation of ergonomic quality, usability, and visibility during the driving tasks.

  • The first system consists of a projection system with actuated primary controls. This system was completed in June 2001 and it was tested in Autumn 2001.
  • The second system consists of a more immersive simulation, with a head mounted display. The person is given a visual representation of his/her movements (avatar) in the virtual environment by means of appropriate techniques of motion tracking, capturing and graphical reproduction. The system was completed in February 2002, and in March 2002 the first tests started. A second variant of this system was realised: the steering wheel and the gear shift were moved away so that the interaction with these controls occurred just thanks to the visual cue, through the graphical interaction between the hands of the avatar and the graphical models of the controls.
  • The third system aims at substituting the
Partners: 
  • Scuola superiore di studi universitari e di perfezionamento S. Anna-PERCRO (IT)
  • University of Geneva-UNIGE (CH)
  • Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne-EPFL (CH)
  • University of Regensburg-URE (DE)
  • Fraunhofer – Institute für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation-FhG (DE)
  • Loughborought University-Lough. HS (UK)
  • Institute of Ergonomics, Darmstadt University-IAD (DE)
Organisation: 
Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF)
Address: 
Strada Torino 50
Zipcode: 
10043
City: 
Orbassano (TO)
Contact country:
Telephone: 
+390119083848
Fax Number: 
+390119083898