Lab uses car simulators to improve road safety

Although better known for its hockey, Mariucci Arena also hosts a research laboratory with simulators to test driver behavior, reflexes and reaction time.
Twenty researchers from the School of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies’ Human Factors Research Lab conduct the tests in an effort to reduce injuries by improving automobile technology, said lab director Peter Hancock.
Monitoring a driver’s reaction time when confronted with different highway designs is one of the principal experiments.
Bill Horrey, one of the lab researchers, uses a Honda Accord, a large projection screen and a couple of computers to run tests on driver behavior.
“(The paid volunteers) drive through different traffic scenarios. As they go through it, computers will measure the data,” Horrey said. “I’m more interested in attentional factors with the display … how certain elements of the display might distract them.”
Through the driving simulations, Horrey aims to reduce automobile accidents, especially those caused by poor weather conditions like fog.
Researchers then analyze computer data compiled from the drivers’ reactions and use the information to develop better safety equipment in cars.
State and federal grants, along with private donations, fund the research lab projects.

Bryan Keogh covers professional schools and welcomes comments at bkeog[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.