• July 16th, 2015

The development of a motion-based system to enhance the immersive experience of a driving simulator, focused on improving the ‘sensation’ of braking

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With the desire to reduce costs and increase efficiencies,  driving simulators are becoming an important tool in the motorsport industry, enabling drivers to practice their art and for engineers to develop the vehicles in a virtual environment. It is clear that an accurate representation of reality is key to how useful the simulator can be.
To provide a realistic immersive experience, the driver’s senses must be stimulated in a way similar to what is experienced in real life. UWE currently has a simulator (room 1N25). You  may use this as a basis of the project.
– The UWE simulator is a static simulator with a 180-degree wrap-around screen that provides a realistic visual simulation, as almost all of the driver’s horizontal field of view is the virtual environment. This visual feedback allows the driver to accurately place the vehicle on the circuit giving an indication of steering accuracy and vehicle response to steering.
– It uses a high quality audio system provides aural feedback, which is especially useful to hear levels of acceleration.
– The contact points for the driver are realistic:
o The steering system employs a force-feedback system, giving realistic feedback to the
steering wheel (i.e. loading up in a corner, applying an element of self-centring,
vibrating when driving on rumble strips, etc)
o The accelerator pedal is of a similar design to that used in a vehicle.
o The brake pedal actuates a standard conventional hydraulic braking system, with the
pedal pressurising a  master cylinder, which in turn actuators the pistons on a brake
calliper which  squeeze onto a piece of metal representing a brake disk.
o Paddles behind the steering wheel actuate the gear changes. This electronic system is
similar to that on a real vehicle.
Despite these systems, there are limitations to the UWE simulator, the most significant being that it is a static simulator. The driver is sitting in a stationary cockpit, thus the vestibular  senses, which process acceleration, are not stimulated. In the lateral direction, this is not so much of an issue as level of cornering can be well judged with the visual feedback (i.e. position on the circuit). The longitudinal direction, however, is more problematic.

The Problem
A static cockpit means that vestibular  senses are not stimulated, i.e. the driver cannot sense accelerations. In the longitudinal direction, these accelerations would be due to the vehicle increasing or decreasing in speed. In particular, when braking, it is quite difficult to judge (certainly for those not experienced in driving the simulator) actually how much force is being applied to the brakes. In a real car, one can quite easily judge braking effort, by feeling the deceleration, while in a static simulator, the only sense is from the pressure being applied to the brake, and the visual display showing a ‘slowing down’. It seems the human body is quite poor at translating visual cues of braking to reality, and such, either presses the brake pedal too hard (slowing down before necessary) to too softly (entering a corner too quickly), neither of which is desirable.
The Objective
Your task is to develop a motion-based system to enhance the sense of braking effort, to provide the driver some feedback of how hard the brake pedal is pressed.
The simulator software measures braking effort through pedal deflection, but since this pressurises a hydraulic circuit, this could equally be measured through a pressure transducer.
The system you design must work within the constraints of a static base — adding motion to the base is not an option that can be pursued. Having said that, your feedback system does not necessarily have to provide a replication of the vestibular senses one would feel in a real car, but needs to augment the visual ‘sensation’ of slowing down so a driver can correctly judge braking effort.



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