TRL-led autonomous vehicle project assisted by VR simulations

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London-based modeling software developer 3D Repo is creating 3D virtual reality (VR) visualizations to help simulate driverless vehicle routes as part of a £100m (US$130m) UK government-backed research project.

Led by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the project is part of the Smart Mobility Living Lab, located in Greenwich, London, which provides a real-life environment where connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) can be developed, evaluated and integrated with the local community. 3D Repo’s cloud-based Building Information Modelling (BIM) collaboration software combines with the latest VR headsets, enabling visitors to the Living Lab to explore the local transport environment from the convenience of an office.

Designed to showcase advances in online BIM projects and 3D visualization techniques in the context of autonomous vehicle transportation, the 3D Repo simulator offers the potential for developing and testing CAV mobility services, including communication, physical, digital, vehicle and control center infrastructure.

A spinout from University College London, 3D Repo is a multi-award winning company offering a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for BIM in the cloud. Instead of planners sharing massive proprietary files, they can simply use the web-based system to access an encrypted knowledge base in order to examine each project stage virtually, even on mobile devices. More than 40 different 3D file formats are decomposed and federated in the company’s big data repository, which can also be accessed via VR, giving a live experience.

“The Smart Mobility Living Lab gives us a real opportunity to understand, validate and test new technologies, from automotive OEMs to new technology providers entering the market,” commented Paul Zanelli, director of engineering and technology at TRL.

“This is a really exciting space and there are a lot of unknowns, from a political perspective, an insurance perspective, and also from a technology perspective, so we need to take steps to test in a dynamic environment to understand how these technologies will be implemented.”

Dr Jozef Dobos, CEO, 3D Repo, noted, “The inclusion of cloud-based BIM within the Smart Mobility Living Lab demonstrates just how far the technology, with ourselves at the forefront of its development and deployment, has come.

“Through the use of VR headsets, we are able to provide interactive access to real-world environments, complete with information contained within complex databases and 3D models. This is having a significant impact on driving forward the understanding of how CAVs will behave, and their interaction with the urban environment and its other users.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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