Monday, May 20, 2024

World-first simulator drives home WA road safety message

A new Western Australian Government-funded high-tech, custom-made driving simulator is set to help researchers at the University of Western Australia make WA roads safer.

The simulator (pictured) – the only one of its kind in the world – will be based at UWA’s Western Australian Centre for Road Safety Research, enabling researchers to test the safety of new road designs.

“Reducing trauma on our roads requires a sophisticated mix of initiatives including better roads and road layouts, safer cars, and changing driver behaviour,” said Road Safety Minister, David Michael.

“The Road Safety Commission takes a research-based approach to tackling these issues and this is why we have partnered with UWA’s Road Safety Research Centre.

“I believe this technology has the potential to make a real difference to long term positive road safety outcomes in Western Australia.”

Jointly funded by the Road Safety Commission ($450,000), Main Roads WA ($160,000) and UWA ($100,000), the simulator is set to provide new opportunities for researchers to study a wide range of road safety issues with a high degree of realism – all free from the risk of a crash.

Research opportunities include:

  • testing new road layouts;
  • assessing driver distraction from roadside advertising;
  • studying at risk groups such as young and older drivers; and
  • testing the impact of the use of drugs, fatigue, and alcohol on driving skills.

The Government says the simulator will enable collaboration between researchers across multiple disciplines including road safety, engineering, ophthalmology, psychology, physiology and mathematics.

The simulator has the advantage of:

  • Adaptability – controlling and manipulating input variables such as behaviour of virtual traffic and pedestrians, weather conditions, and road design;
  • Repeatability and standardisation – participants can drive under exactly the same conditions;
  • Ease of data collection – accurate and efficient measuring of driving performance; and
  • Safety – safe environments free from crash risk and physical harm allowing drivers to be exposed to hazardous situations in a systematic way, which can be difficult to study in a natural driving environment.

“We are investing more than a billion dollars in key road safety initiatives like theĀ Regional Road Safety Program, but funding new technology is another way we can help to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads,” said Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti.

“This technology will help us to better plan our road network by allowing us to test new designs in a simulated environment.

“Testing new road initiatives before they are implemented will save both time and money, enabling us to mitigate risks and cost effectively utilise our resources to make Western Australian roads safer and more efficient.”

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