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Mid-America Transportation Center

Integration of Human-in-the-Loop Driving Simulator with Microscopic Traffic Simulation

Final Report
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University of Iowa


  • Principal Investigator: Susan Chrysler ( 319-335-4306)
  • Project Status
  • Start Date: 07/01/2012
  • End Date: 12/31/2013
  • About this Project
    Brief Project Description & Background
    Human-in-the-loop driving simulators and microscopic traffic simulation are two important tools in transportation research, and traditionally serve different research needs. This project intend to integrate the two tools into an even more powerful system that will benefit both driver behavior research and traffic system analysis, and provide a venue for converging research in those two directions, leading to new discoveries in transportation safety and environmental sustainability.
    Research Objective
    In this project we intend to integrate the widely used VISSIM micro-simulation traffic model into the equally popular NADS MiniSim driving simulator. Two efforts will be carried out during the research: first, perform two-way software integration by adding human driver and predefined event sequences from the driving simulator into the micro-simulation and feeding the traffic back into the driving simulator; second, design a unified procedure for creating correlated road networks and traffic scenarios that will be applied to both systems.
    Potential Benefits
    The integrated driving simulator/traffic simulation system, as a result of this research, will expand the research possibilities using those two tools. For driver behavior research based on driving simulators, it will benefit from easy to define and realistic traffic flow in the virtual driving environment. For traffic systems research, the human-in-the-loop element, as well as complex predefined event sequences, both previous unavailable to micro-simulation models, will provide opportunities to include individual driver eccentricities into the analysis. The wider range of scenarios that can be studied on the driving simulator will also in turn provide more accurate data for modelling the traffic systems in micro-simulation.
    Driving simulator and microscopic traffic simulation are two important tools in transportation research. The former is used to study individual driver behaviors by placing human subjects in a realistic driving environment. The latter is used for traffic analysis by modeling individual vehicles and their interaction. Micro-simulation models provide realistic traffic patterns in terms of density and headway, which is something that the driving simulator lacks in its virtual environment. At the same time, micro-simulation models lack the human-in-the-loop aspect which a driving simulator could provide. We propose to integrate the widely used VISSIM micro-simulation software into the equally popular NADS MiniSim driving simulator to create a human-in-the-loop driving environment with realistic traffic patterns. The two systems are intrinsically compatible since both use agent-based modeling to simulate individual vehicles. This project will be carried out in coordination with Iowa State University, whose study on work zone and vehicle emission modeling will use the integrated MiniSim-VISSIM system, and who will provide design input from the aspect of expert users of microscopic traffic simulation models. The output of this research will be improved traffic scenarios in the MiniSim software which will benefit all users of this system, including MATC members University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Future applications of this capability include conducting human factors studies on impact of fuel economy displays on throttle usage and then using that behavioral data to conduct micro-simulations in VISSIM to assess impacts on vehicle emission and air quality.
    Total Project Cost
    $ 50,016.62