Date of Award

8-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Lee D. Han

Committee Members

Lee Han, Christopher Cherry, Stephen Richards, William Seaver

Abstract

Driving Simulators have become invaluable tools for researchers through technological advancements of the twenty-first century. With increasing availability and affordability of these systems, this dissertation focuses on three research projects utilizing the University of Tennessee’s high fidelity driving simulator.

Chapter I discusses how previous research efforts reveal inconsistencies in acclimating test participants to driving simulators. Through proper warm-up time periods, researchers can be confident that the test subjects are comfortable with the handling of the simulator vehicle. This will create reliable test results for the researcher’s analysis. The warm-up acclimation study found that approximately 65% - 85% of the sample group acclimated to the handling of the vehicle in 6 minutes.

The rural teen driving population has been identified as a critical population in terms of high fatality rates. The second driving simulator study analyzed vehicular input controls and revealed distracted drivers significantly increase lateral vehicle velocity, thus escalating the probability of crashes. Multitasking, such as talking on the phone, reduced the teen driver’s abilities to maintain their normal operating speed.

The final driving simulator study aimed to improve the current intersection sight distance design standards. Gap acceptance behavior was analyzed through multiple series of intersections. The current American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials gap acceptance design values were found to be less than comfortably accepted in the driving simulator. Nearly 50% of the sample group accepted gaps in the traffic stream of 7.5 seconds when turning left. Only 10% of the participants accepted a 6.5 second gap when proceeding straight or turning right at the intersection. Gaps accepted throughout the testing were found to decrease as the testing progressed.

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