A High Fidelity Driving Simulator As A Tool For Design & Evaluation of Highway Infrastructure Upgrades

Primary Investigator Contact Information

Laura Stanley

External Project Contact(s)

Sue Sillick
  • Montana Department of Transportation, Research Bureau
  • 2701 Prospect Avenue
  • Helena, Montana 59620-1001
  • 406-444-7693
  • ssillick@mt.gov


  1. A High Fidelity Driving Simulator as a Tool for Design and Evaluation of Highway Infrastructure Upgrades
    1. Michael Kelly, Suzanne Lassacher, Zach Shipstead
    2. 4W1017_Final_Report.pdf

Project Objective

To create and test the capability of the WTI Driving Simulator for evaluating drivers’ responses to proposed highway infrastructure improvements and safety deployments.

Project Abstract

High fidelity driving simulators provide an opportunity to simulate and test drivers’ responses to improvements in infrastructure, information and warning messages, and other deployments. The planned deployments on U.S. 191 in the vicinity of Big Sky, Montana are an excellent opportunity for using a simulator for rapid prototyping. For many of the scheduled deployments of curve, ice, and excessive speed warnings, driving simulation would provide a tool to refine the plan for location, visibility, and message sets. WTI proposes to create and test a simulation capability, using our existing simulator, to quickly and inexpensively evaluate these proposed deployments. WTI proposes to employ a rapid prototyping approach, using the Driving Simulation Laboratory and custom tiles representing sections of U.S. 191, to help MDT develop and refine safety countermeasures for that roadway. With MDT advice, WTI will specify and obtain custom tiles and entities representing appropriate sections of U.S. 191. Projected safety-related system deployments will be electronically simulated on these tiles. A sample of drivers will then drive through the scenarios to test the effectiveness of deployments. If changes in the systems are suggested, the simulation can be easily altered to represent the new specifications and the refinements evaluated.

Task Descriptions

  1. Project Management
    1. The initial task is management and coordination of the project including financial management, technical tracking and reporting.
  2. Evaluate Driver Performance and Behavior
    1. Task 3 will use the custom tiles and scenarios to obtain data on a sample of drivers who drive on the simulated roadway. Situations conducive to accidents will be simulated and measures related to safety, vehicle control, will be made. A sample of approximately 35 drivers representing a mix of genders and ages will be recruited to drive a series of tests involving potential safety enhancements to the highway. They will also complete a written survey or interview about their reactions to the enhancements.
  3. Develop Tiles and Scenarios Specific to US 191
    1. With guidance from MDT, the specific area of U.S. 191 to receive safety countermeasures will be defined. Using topographic maps, custom simulator tiles will be created that reflect relevant natural and cultural features that influence driver behavior. Scenarios will be created to simulate the deployment of proposed safety countermeasures.
  4. Validate Driver Performance Data
    1. Researchers will compare driver performance data collected in the simulator with available data from the selected roadway to validate results of the prototyping studies and to determine ways to increase the accuracy of projections.

Milestones, Dates, Schedule

Start Date:4/1/2006
End Date:11/30/2006
Extended Date:4/30/2007

Student Involvement


Relationship to Other Research Projects


Technology Transfer Activities


Transportation Research Board Keywords

driving simulator, human factors, rapid prototyping


Montana Department of Transportation