From Junkyard to Research Lab: Creating the Driving Simulator Console for Distracting Tasks
Driving Simulator for TBI
Defining virtual reality driving in TBI
(NIH Institute Child Human Development (NICHD) Grant)
The goal of this project is to combine the advantages of Virtual Reality (VR) simulation and the expertise in the field of transportation engineering to create realistic but safe scenarios to evaluate driving behaviors for the rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
To do this, we designed a virtual reality driving simulator that simulates normal driving situations and provides customized distractions. This simulator is being validated against a real car, which has been instrumented with sensors and cameras to record the driver's actions and behaviors, real time steering wheel turn angle, and gas/brake pedal depression. Participants with brain injury drive in the real car along a pre-defined route in the Philadelphia area, and then drive the same route that has been programmed into the simulator. The first goal of the study is to validate that drivers perform the same in the simulator, which is a much safer environment.
The most custom-made part of the simulator (besides the software) is the center console of the car. The center console is used to provide common distractions such as selecting toll change while driving, selecting a CD, and tuning the radio to a predefined channel. What follows is a picture diary of parts of the construction process.
Team: Maria Schutleis, PhD (PI), Dario Salvucci, Ph.D., Jocelyn Ang, Kevin Manning from Drexel University, collaborators from the University of Iowa (Linda Boyle, Ph.D. Dan McGehee, Ph.D., Dave Nygens), Simone Concepts (Lisa Simone, Ph.D.), Digital Mediaworks (Dean Klimchuk, Roman Mitura).
Real car.......Fake car!
To create our fake center console and radio, parts from a 2002 Ford Taurus were acquired from a local junkyard.
Like every good engineer, I tried to get everything for free.
found a local junkyard that had the center console I was looking for.
When I got there, these nice guys all shook their heads and said there
was no way I could fit the parts in a car. And perhaps did I have
access to a pickup truck? (The console doesn't look that big, I
thought to myself...)
Then they take me back into a room, and
there on the floor is a gear shifter, a center console, a radio, a box
of random fastening parts, and THE ENTIRE DASH of a 2002 Ford Taurus!
(laughing) I didn't need all of that, but they weren't going to strip
it down to the parts I needed (and I would learn why, later).
I eyeballed it....and said....yeah, that will fit in my car. They
graciously decided to humor me. :-) (After all, engineers are
notoriously good at the 'ol "10 pounds in the 5 pound bag phenomenon...)
I have managed to cram a LOT OF STUFF into my car. And I told the that.
Again, they very nicely humored me. But lo and behold, after moving the
passenger's seat back all the way down, and moving the driver's seat
very far forward, we got everything in! Yeah!
And I drove back
home with my knees banging on the door and my chest against the
steering wheel with the Entire Dashboard of a 2002 Ford Taurus sprawled
across the entire cabin of my car.
But all the doors closed. Coooooool.
bad I didn't have a picture of either the yoga driving position or the
packing job we did. But I did have to beg a friend to help me take the Entire Dashboard of a 2002 Ford Taurus out of my car!
Below are the raw pictures, grime and all. Look at your own car when it gets gnarly, and multiply it by about a thousand. I went through nearly a bottle of deep grease-cutting Fantastic.
To get at the back of the radio area, I had to disassemble the entire dash from the back, unscrew everything and rip the nylon screws out that held the wiring harness in. Embedded in the middle of everything was a steel support frame that everything was bolted to. Nearly everything was 9/32. And both a hex and star drive 2.5 mm. (Amazing that a US car uses both imperial and metric...
After some poking around, it became apparent that to get at the screws for the radio panel, I had to go in from the back. Aaaallll the way back. (Heh heh...so that is why I got an Entire Dashboard of a 2002 Ford Taurus instead of the specific parts I told them I needed.
Plan of Attack: In the picture below, the center black radio portion must be cut out, and the armrest must be cut from the center console. The gear shifter (shown standing to the left of the center console) fits inside the big hole in the console, so it and the change area and need to be save.
The hacked out part of the dash must be trimmed so only the back part remains. The blue masking tape is to mark the cut and protect the black (good) area from the saw blade.
For a nice clean cut, I am using a band saw, and then I cleaned off the edge with a belt sander.
After, we needed to create a steel frame to mount the parts onto, since the frame from the entire dash could not be modified. Because the construction was custom, the frame was welded INTO the the center console and radio area! The shifter and change area are mounted on the bottom, with the radio mounted in the back to replicate the placement of parts in a real car.
Painting and Final Assembly
The frame must be painted to prevent rusting. To simulate the carpet around the finished device, tan colored material is sewn into a "skirt" to hide any underlying supportive structure. Finally, wire up the radio.
Matching the console device up with the VR hardware. Of course, use of power tools is both needed and welcomed. The PI inspects the delivery of parts and approves the work.
Closed Circuit TV
To record what subjects do during the trials, three cameras are mounted on the walls to capture face and head movement, gaze, and the feet for foot pedal usage.