Helping people with spinal cord injury relearn how to drive
Re-Training Driving Skills After SCI: A Virtual Reality Approach
(New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research Grant)
Dr. Simone led the driving simulator hardware design and development as a co-investigator on this grant. The goal of the study was to use virtual reality to help people with spinal cord injury practice driving in a safe environment before going back on the road. The custom equipment (shown here) provides the user interface to the VR software simulation, including all the adaptive equipment (hand controls) necessary for acceleration and braking.
This is a custom device that was designed to provide as much realism as possible on an extremely tight budget, and was a successful collaboration of several local companies. The steering column is from a 1987 Cadillac DeVille (donated by Price Auto Wreckers, Bridgewater, NJ), and includes a working ignition switch, turn signals, column gear shifter, tilt and telescope features, and free-spinning steering wheel. Actual hand controls were donated by Drive Master, Inc., Fairfield, NJ, a company that provides automobile mobility solutions for individuals with disabilities. Spadix Technologies (Middlesex, NJ) donated machine shop time, spray booth access and workspace for the construction of the device.
Our hardware interfaces with the software developed by the great designers at digital mediaworks. The simulation is described in their Driving Simulator page.
The steering wheel turn, ignition switch, and turn signal states are measured using encoder feedback and analog signal conditioning. The hand controls are mechanically coupled to dummy gas and brake pedals, with pedal depression measured using linear encoders. All are interfaced to the VR software using a high speed USB-based data acquisition system.
Team: Maria Schultheis, PhD (PI), David Tulsky, PhD (Co-PI), Lisa
Simone, PhD, Dean Klimchuk, Roman Mitura, Richard Nead, LaNora
Callahan, John Simone, Margaret Schmitt.
2007 Update: The VR
Driving Simulator is currently housed at Kessler Medical Rehabilitation
Research and Education Corporation, and new studies are beginning under
the leadership of David Tulsky, PhD.