Full-size Driving Simulator
The lab is well equipped to study the cognitive aspects of driving and has attracted doctoral scholarships from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Road Safety Authority (RSA). The lab consists of a control room where researchers can observe experiments in action and a blacked-out testing room where the simulators are housed.
This is a full-size, 5-door Volkswagen Polo with force-feedback steering, pedals, a gearstick, tachometer and speedometer. The simulator faces three, 3-metre-diagonal screens angled at 60º to produce a 180º, immersive forward view. A screen placed behind the vehicle projects rear-view images which the driver can view using their rear-view mirror, while two smaller LCD screens display wing-mirror images. STIsim software can be used to create a variety of simulated driving environments, allowing the researcher to manipulate all aspects of the road scene (road layout, signage, cyclists, pedestrians, animals, lighting, weather conditions and other vehicles which interact with drivers’ behavior). As the simulator is housed inside an actual vehicle, the creation of adjunct situations (such as the experience of accompanying passengers) are also possible. The simulator can measure a wide variety of driving variables (speed, reaction time, lane position, pressure placed on individual pedals, etc.) and there is radio equipment which can be used to record verbal responses (e.g. mood evaluation, hazard appraisal, etc).
Portable Driving Simulator
This simulator uses the same STIsim software as the larger vehicle but is entirely portable. The simulation is displayed across three screens and the vehicle is controlled using a desk-mounted steering wheel and a panel of pedals. This simulator can be used outside of the lab and as also useful for researching the driving behavior of disabled populations. STIsim software also provides realistic audio simulation (engine sounds, horns beeping) and these are relayed via speakers inside the vehicle. This can also be used for other purposes (playing music, sat nav instructions, etc).
We recently acquired a state-of-the-art 128-channel Brain Products, active electrode system. This system is used in the laboratory setting to explore the neural correlates of multisensory integration in the ageing brain. This EEG system is also capable of being used in conjunction with the driving simulators to gain a deeper understand of how the driving environment affects cognitive function and performance.