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Using distributed immersive simulation to explore social interactions between drivers

Project Description

Transport system designers need to understand and predict the impact of new infrastructure design. This can include automated vehicles in ‘mixed traffic’ situations, in which both automated and non-automated vehicles are on the road. It can also include other primitives such as shared space, weak lane discipline and new signalling systems, Systems such as mixed traffic do not exist today and so modelling such environments requires an understanding of human behaviour and the social interactions that take place (across the range of transport users and cultures). This project will develop a multi-driver immersive simulation environment that leverages existing software technology at the University of Leeds to study the social interactions of drivers. Existing driving simulators focus on a single driver to support the design of in-vehicle systems or the response of a driver to new infrastructure layouts. Traffic simulators such as VISSIM or AIMSUN use driver models for all the traffic to evaluate the throughput of new infrastructure layouts. Neither of these approaches are suitable for the modelling of social interactions between drivers and the application of this understanding to the design of future transport systems. While distributed simulation has been used in the past for training (Johnson, Mastaglio, & Peterson, 1993), it is only recently being considered for driving research (Gajananan, Nantes, Miska, Nakasone, & Prendinger, 2013), (Andersson, Hultgren, Leandertz, Johansson, Eriksson, Jakobson, 2015) (Mühlbacher, 2015), making this a novel and innovative research area. Depending on the skills and interests of the researcher, there are a range of different foci to study including the technical design of the simulator, the design of multi-driver experiments and finally the application to understand social interactions. This research will build on over £5M of funded research projects focused on the human centred design of future transport systems, including interAct and VeriCAV, and on the expertise of the supervisors in programming, human factors, modelling and optimization of transport systems. The student will benefit from conducting this research in the vibrant multi-disciplinary environment of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, a world-leading centre for the study of all aspects of transport systems with a large PhD cohort. The experimental work will be conducted in the University of Leeds Driving Simulator suite (, one of the most advanced such facilities in the world. The work will build on prior human factors’ and automated vehicles’ research at the University of Leeds.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 years EPSRC DTP award will provide tuition fees (£4,500 for 2019/20), tax-free stipend at the UK research council rate (£15,009 for 2019/20), and a research training and support grant of around £5,000.


Andersson, A., Hultgren, J. A., Leandertz, R., Johansson, M., Eriksson, S., & Jakobson, O. (2015). A Driving Simulation Platform using Distributed Vehicle Simulators and HLA. In Proceedings of the DSC 2015 Europe (pp. 123–130).

Gajananan, K., Nantes, A., Miska, M., Nakasone, A., & Prendinger, H. (2013). An experimental space for conducting controlled driving behavior studies based on a multiuser networked 3D virtual environment and the scenario markup language. IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems, 43(4), 345–358.

Johnson, W. R., Mastaglio, T. W., & Peterson, P. D. (1993). The Close Combat Tactical Trainer Program. In Proceedings of the 1993 Winter Simulation Conference.

Mühlbacher, D., 2015. Multi-Driver Simulation – the link between driving simulation and traffic simulation. mobil.TUM 2015 Int. Sci. Conf. Mobil. Transp. - Technol. Solut. Perspect. Intell. Transp. Syst. 12.

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