Top driving simulator FAQs from universities revealed (and answered!)

Top driving simulator FAQs from universities revealed (and answered!)

Increasingly, technology and mobility companies are funding universities to co-develop and test new concepts that condense vehicle development time. Being equipped with the latest professional R&D tools, especially advanced driver-in-the-loop (DIL) simulators, enables universities to bring in more funding for research projects. In addition, the industry’s latest test and validation systems can help attract the best students and researchers.

Here are the answers to some of the questions we are most frequently asked by academic institutions considering a DIL simulator purchase. Click on the red + sign to expand the answer.

Technical questions:

We’re aware that HMDs are a relatively low-budget solution and universities already do a lot of work with VR. We have OEM customers who use HMDs as a visual system because they also use their driving simulator to evaluate interior design. HMDs work well in this context, for example if you design a new dashboard that doesn’t yet exist in physical prototype form. To operate it, you also need augmented reality, for which solutions exist, even if that then becomes a little more expensive.

The downside of an HMD is that the field of view is quite limited. There’s nothing happening in your peripheral view, so it’s not suitable for experiments that require good speed perception.

Cruden has integrated HMD use into its Panthera Simulator Software. The HMD moves separately from the motion platform, which must be compensated for in the visual information being sent to the HMD. In addition, Cruden simulators use Unity as a render engine. In the past, compatibility was inconsistent across different HMD manufacturers and versions, but Unity now has an API for HMDs, which simplifies the situation. Any HMD that supports Unity can also be used in a Cruden simulator.

For more on specifying visual systems, refer to this series of articles in the How to? area of Cruden’s website

D-BOX’s heave, roll and pitch movements add life to an otherwise static simulator and increase immersion, but its motion can never be used as feedback for the driver in the simulator to evaluate certain elements of the car. For example, you cannot use it to validate a new suspension design: it’s not accurate enough because the bandwidth is insufficient.

For many applications, a static simulator is sufficient. When motion is required, a hexapod system offers better accuracy and supports a much greater range of use – and may not be as costly as you expect. Cruden has a large installation base. When customers upgrade to a new motion platform, we always buy back the older hexapods. These motion platforms are refurbished and reserved exclusively for academic customers, to enable them to work with a proper motion system at a discounted price.

There’s more information on specifying DIL simulator motion systems in this series of articles in the How to? area of Cruden’s website

The SUMO (Simulation of Urban MObility) traffic-flow simulation tool and the CARLA simulator for autonomous driving research are popular open-source engineering tools among academic researchers. Cruden’s technology is there to connect a human driver to whichever engineering or research tools the customer uses for driving simulation – including SUMO, which is an example of one of our current integration projects for a university, and CARLA. Cruden has no preference for, nor ties with, any engineering tool or tool manufacturer. The Panthera platform is designed to integrate any conceivable tool that the customer wishes to use, so let’s discuss your needs! We can make it work.

For more on Cruden’s tool integration expertise, refer to our engineering tool article series.


Business questions:

There are many research uses for a driving simulator but here are a couple of examples that Cruden is currently working on with academic partners. In one case, a university in Munich is conducting research on platooning connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). Another academic customer in Germany is researching ways to homologate cars using vehicle-in-the-loop (VIL) technology. In this scenario, onboard ADAS and automated driving systems are validated using a full vehicle on a chassis dynamometer running in parallel with a driving simulator.

Automotive OEMs often fund projects such as these because they’re of competitive interest, but either too far into the future or too far outside their direct line of business to warrant completion in-house. They’ll typically make some of their own resources available but want the university to take the lead on the project.

Automotive OEMs often expect their research partners to use the same engineering tools and/or vehicle models that they use for regular vehicle development. Cruden’s agnostic approach to engineering tools means that it’s always possible to integrate a specific tool, but the amount of work required to achieve that will vary from tool to tool. dSPACE HIL integrations, for example, are very popular with Cruden customers so we always ensure that new releases continue to be compatible. Other tools may require a bridge application from Cruden or can be integrated using an SDK. The integration can be performed by Cruden or by the customer, with our support.

For more on Cruden’s tool integration expertise, refer to our engineering tool blog series.

Specific sceneries, 3D road models or layouts for research projects can be created in-house by a university or sourced externally from Cruden or a third party. Cruden uses Unity for graphics rendering, a widely supported tool, which makes it easier to integrate third-party sceneries in the simulator.

Self-created content can come from graphics programs like Autodesk 3ds Max, but other tools are available specifically for the easy generation of road layouts in Unity. One example of these tools is RoadRunner from MathWorks, which offers discounts for academic customers. Typically, it might take an input from OpenStreetMap to create the environment, after which there is a clearly defined workflow to export it to Unity in such a way that it renders in Panthera, Cruden’s simulator control software.

RoadRunner also outputs an industry-standard OpenDrive file of the created environment, which may be required if the driving simulator is being used with engineering tools such as SUMO for traffic simulation.

When a university buys a simulator from Cruden, it can rely on us to help adapt it for use with any research project that might arise. We are ready to sit down with you and your customer or potential customer to compile a full inventory of what it is that you’re trying to achieve with the simulator. Based on that, we will define the necessary steps and make a list of who does what. Usually, some work will be done by the university and some by the customer. Cruden will also quote for any further consultancy work required on its part

Formula SAE/Student teams are a great way for universities to attract students. If you’re considering buying a driving simulator for the university for a different purpose, it’s relatively straightforward to ensure that’s ready to support your Formula SAE/Student team as well.

The two basic requirements are a real-time vehicle model that the team can use to drive the simulator plus the relevant road content, which is fundamentally a series of cones on a proving ground. Cruden Simulink Vehicle Model (CSVM) Light is a multibody, physics-based vehicle model built in MATLAB Simulink. It is available free of charge as part of our Panthera Free software that comes with the simulator. CSVM Light is a good starting point for any Formula Student team to model their car for real-time simulation in the driving simulator. This open, white-box model contains all the key elements of a suspension system, ready to be tailored to the specifications of the Formula SAE/Student race car.

Cruden can also supply a proving ground driving environment, on which it’s possible to set cones to define the slalom and other courses required for Formula SAE/Student competition.


These are just a few of the questions we receive on a regular basis. Feel free to get in touch with us at any time, to explore how a driving simulator could fit into your faculty. For more information, please contact Dennis Marcus via or on +31 20 707 4646.




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