The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute is one of the world’s most technologically advanced
rehabilitation research facilities. With assistance from IDT, the simulation consultancy and
engineering company, and Cruden, in 2017 the Institute introduced its DriverLab driving simulator
in partnership with Canada’s Ministry of Transportation and the automotive industry. By
researching the driving skills of elderly and disabled individuals, this facility is expected to influence
future driver training and testing standards and to help shape the vehicle design features needed
for an ageing population. DriverLab will also examine the effects of medical conditions (including
major sleep disorders) and medication on driving performance.
To provide insights into how drivers react to challenging driving conditions commonly encountered on public roads, DriverLab simulates varying light conditions, including dazzling sunlight and the glare at night of oncoming headlights; varying weather conditions, including raindrops on the windscreen; variations in vehicle and pedestrian traffic; and unexpected obstacles and events which suddenly raise the driver’s cognitive load.
To meet these objectives, DriverLab has to create realistic driving dynamics. To immerse the user in the driving experience, an Audi A3 hatchback (minus wheels and running gear) is placed on top of a 6-DOF hydraulic motion platform and surrounded by a fibre-reinforced plastic projection dome which affords a seamless 360-degree field-of-view. A surround sound system accurately reproduces tyre rumble, wind roar, engine noise, and sounds from other traffic.
Essential to the realism is the feel and responsiveness of the car’s controls. Key parts of the Audi’s hardware have been retained, such as the front seats, dashboard, steering wheel, pedals and secondary switches and controls. Cruden worked with a German company, digital workbench gmbh, to integrate the Audi into the simulator with in-car functionality. This included the steering, throttle, brakes, dashboard, warning signals, windshield wipers, headlights, radio, infotainments, and ABS shaker. The cockpit also contains customisable interfaces and sophisticated physiological measurement devices, including a combination of EEG and eye-tracking, to monitor driver engagement and workload.