Within the Human Factors Research Group (HFRG) we possess a wide range of technical facilities which are used research and consultancy projects, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.
Usability and Ergonomics Laboratory
The Usability and Ergonomics Laboratory constitutes a self-contained space containing a wide range of video and data capture equipment. As a result, we are able to conduct usability and ergonomics evaluation studies in which participants’ behaviour can be observed and measured in a controlled fashion.
Human Factors Transport Simulation Laboratory
The HFRG Transport Simulation Laboratory enables our research work to be conducted in a safe, controlled and cost-effective environment. This has been of specific importance in out transport-related work, where we currently possess hi-fidelity car, motorcycle and train simulators.
Car driving simulator
Our interactive driving simulator is one of the most sophisticated university facilities in the UK. The simulator comprises the front half of a Honda Civic vehicle and provides a 270° forward/side image of a driving scene via three overhead projectors, together with rear and side mirror displays. Drivers are able to interact with the scene using the original steering wheel, pedals and indicators. Internal vibration is simulated through the seats and pedals using transducers (bass rockers) fitted underneath the seats and on the floor of the car. Using a bespoke Java application, we are able to present information such as speed, revs and gearing in a wide range of layouts and colour schemes via an 8 inch LCD display fitted into the instrument panel area. A 12 inch touchscreen and rotary controller is also available in the centre console for use in prototyping novel user-interfaces. We are also able to simulate head-up display technology.
The core driving simulator software enables the researcher to manipulate the driving experience to investigate issues of interest, e.g. by including a safety-critical event such as the car in front suddenly breaking or a pedestrian walking out in front of the driver. Furthermore, a large number of driver behaviour/performance variables can be measured by the software (e.g. speed variability, lane position, time/distance to lead vehicle).
The simulator is based on a 319 commuter class train. The Virtual Environments consists of a geotypical route. Rail infrastructure dimensioning, styling and positioning within the Virtual Environment follows railway group standards. For experimental purposes inside the simulator are bespoke video camera mounts were manufactured and fitted to three areas within the cab.Also a mount was fitted above the seat which allowed a camera to be pointed straight down at the cab controls. A vibration unit was manufactured by attaching an off-centre cam to a small motor unit and fitting it into the base of the cab unit. This simulates the vibration that would be felt by the driver in the cab from the engine vibrating, it was set at a constant speed which could be turned on or off. An audio unit consisting of two speakers were fitted into the cab.
A motorcycle simulator (‘MotorcycleSim’) has been designed and built as a research tool. It is an innovative project (development is ongoing) for which there was little prior knowledge or expertise to draw from. This has been a major challenge but the result is a simulator which is the first of its kind in the world. MotorcycleSim uses modified computer software that allows motorcyclists to ride a full size motorcycle and interact with a virtual environment. The riding scenarios are projected on a large screen in front of the rider and the riding experience is further enhanced by ‘STISIM-Drive’ simulation software providing enhanced perceptions of acceleration and braking effects.
Using MotorcycleSim it is possible to put riders through identical scenarios which are not possible on the road (where even lighting, traffic, weather conditions can vary on the same route between different rides). In front of the rider and motorcycle is a large projection screen which presents the riding scenario ahead. The standard motorcycle controls are linked to a control interface in the simulation software. Most of the controls work in a realistic manner and the riding scenario speeds up or slows down depending on the speed calculated from the throttle position or braking effort. The brakes work on distributed ratios between the front and rear brakes (75:25 for dry conditions or 50:50 for wet road surfaces). Engine noise is presented through surround sound speakers in the simulation room. The ‘STISIM-Drive’ simulation software can be used to build interactive riding scenarios with different weather conditions, traffic, pedestrians (adults and children) as well as typical hazards such as vehicles pulling out at junctions, braking suddenly, etc