With vehicles as the leading cause of death in Canada, DriverLab uses simulation to develop tests and recommendations for fitness and safety for driving and investigating effects of health and medications on driving.

At KITE, we have developed DriverLab, a state-of-the-art driving simulator integrated into our world-class Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratory (CEAL). CEAL features a large 6 degree-of-freedom motion base upon which DriverLab can be mounted. DriverLab is the only simulator of its kind in Canada and is comparable to the most sophisticated driving simulators in the world. DriverLab reproduces the sights, sounds, and physical motions of real driving to allow evaluation of driving abilities under controlled conditions. Unlike the current “gold standard” of on-road testing, which typically occurs during clear daytime conditions, DriverLab supports the safe evaluation of driving under challenging conditions (e.g., nighttime, poor weather), and challenging situations (e.g., aggressive drivers, heavy traffic, in-car distractions) where there is a higher risk of collisions.

Overall, motor vehicle trauma is a major public health epidemic for which limited research activities and resources have been focused on resolving. The outcomes of DriverLab research help to reduce the emotional, physical, and financial costs of vehicle collisions in Canada by reducing their occurrence. DriverLab also supports healthy, independent aging by allowing older adults to safely perform the activities of daily living that typically involve vehicular travel including, attending medical appointments, engaging in employment and volunteer opportunities, and participating in social events. Research using DriverLab helps to optimize vehicle design and in-car devices to be safely used across a variety of different populations. The lab is used to assess the impact of prescription drugs, medical conditions, drowsiness and aging on driving performance and fitness-to-drive considerations. DriverLab facilitates empirical research that supports changes in policy, practice, and design (of vehicle and environment) in profound and tangible ways.

Recent Research

The research objectives of DriverLab are to develop sensitive methods for driver assessment, more effective methods for driver training, better recommendations for vehicle design, mitigation of drowsy and distracted driving, the effects of prescription and illicit drugs on driving, and a careful evaluation of the interactions between drivers and integrated-vehicle technologies. For each of these objectives, researchers are evaluating driving performance across a wide range of populations (individuals of different ages, with sensory, cognitive, or physical impairment) and across a wide range of driving scenarios. Scientists work closely with collaborative partners including the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, driver examiners, clinicians (including geriatricians and family physicians), automobile manufacturers, and simulation development companies. Specific research objectives include:

  • Assessing the effects of medications on driving performance. One in five older adults are prescribed a psychotropic medication and almost half of the 25% of Canadians who experience chronic pain take analgesic medication (which can be associated with significant side-effects such as sedation, agitation, and poor memory).
  • Investigating the impact of monocular vision on driving safety
  • Developing a reliable test to determine fitness-to-drive for those with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. By 2031, 1.4 million people in Canada will have dementia. In 2009, of those diagnosed with dementia, 28% had a driver’s license.
  • Making recommendations for a customized licensing program that would allow for specific, individually-based driving restrictions (e.g., driving during the day on local roads, but not at night or on the highway).
  • Investigating the role of cognitive and physical training programs on safe driving outcomes.

Equipment Highlights

DriverLab contains a full-sized passenger vehicle, mounted on a +/-360-degree turntable. The vehicle maintains its original internal components (e.g., steering wheel, gas/brake pedals, seats, dashboard), but also contains customizable interfaces and sophisticated measurement tools, such as a state-of-the-art eye tracking system. The display system consists of a curved dome surrounding the entire car, high-resolution projectors, which are seamlessly blended and warped to create a 360-degree field-of-view immersive experience. DriverLab’s scenario development software allows for the creation of various driving scenarios, including urban, suburban, rural, and freeway environments under various lighting and weather conditions, with the ability to vary pedestrian and vehicle traffic and initiate unexpected obstacles and events. A surround sound system accurately reproduces tire rumble, wind roar, traffic, and engine sounds. One-of-a-kind features include a rain simulator that produces real water droplets of variable intensities on the windshield and a robotic glare simulator that recreates the harsh glare of oncoming headlights at night. High performance computers are used to render the virtual scene, run the simulations, manage, and synchronize the behavioural measurement devices, and record data. DriverLab can be operated either mounted on the 6 DOF motion base or in the stationary hall using only the turntable. This versatility enables cost effective use when full motion is not essential, but still provides useful motion (for example when turning city corners) that reduces the likelihood of simulator sickness related symptoms.

Quick Facts

DriverLab is a state-of-the-art driving simulator integrated into the Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratory (CEAL). DriverLab is the only simulator of its kind in Canada and is one of the most sophisticated driving simulators in the world. DriverLab contains a fully equipped passenger vehicle with 360 degrees field-of-view high resolution projection system that fully immerses the driver in the virtual environment. DriverLab can be operated either using only a +/-360-degree turntable, or in combination with the 6 DOF motion base. Rain and glare simulators make this driving simulator unique in the world.

Recent Publications

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