TRL develops new VR simulator to improve blind spot detection for trucks


The UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has developed a unique blind spot simulator rig that uses virtual reality (VR) to help improve the design of truck cabs and road layouts, as well as aiding accident investigations.

The independent organization explains that its new VR simulator demonstrates its commitment to develop innovative technologies and its focus on creating safer transportation methods. The precision of the system is based on a physical rig developed and calibrated by TRL in collaboration with Volvo Trucks, to ensure a highly accurate representation of direct vision from a real-life Volvo vehicle cab.

The calibrated rig allows all combinations of seat and steering wheel adjustments available in a real-life vehicle to be accurately replicated for each driver. The virtual reality experience is then reconfigured for each driver to reflect their unique physical dimensions and their individual seating positions. The resulting VR experience is an accurate replication of the view they would see when driving, as if they were in the actual vehicle.

TRL says this approach stands in contrast to a traditional VR experience, where a camera is randomly placed within a scene in the hope that a rough representation of the vision is provided. Unfortunately, from the perspective of direct vision simulation, the variance between a rough and accurate representation may equate to the difference between seeing a cyclist or not.

The technology can be used for direct vision assessments of different vehicle designs, visibility assessments of junctions with different layouts, recreation of road traffic accidents from the perspective of different people located at the scene, or human factor trials to evaluate people’s interaction with new vehicle and road environment designs.

“VR technology is increasingly being used throughout the industry to create immersive visual experiences. However, immersion or high-quality computer graphics does not necessarily mean accuracy. We wanted to take VR technology one step further than just a visually appealing experience, and create a scientific tool for virtual testing,” explained Ceki Erginbas, senior researcher at TRL.

“With this calibrated system, we can accurately test new vehicles or road environment designs, without the need to physically build them. By offering this unique virtual testing system, not only are we aiming to improve safety for vulnerable road users, but also to help reduce costs for designers, contractors and manufacturers, as they can detect vision problems early in the design stage, saving them from high reconstruction costs.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).