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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Portable Vehicle Simulator for Training Novice Drivers

Project Period: 09/01/04-03/31/05
Principal Investigator: Konstantin A. Sizov
831 Beacon Street Ste. 283
Newton, MA 02459
Phone: 617-762-4013 x111
Fax: 617-762-4013



Younger 16-year old novice male drivers with, at most, six months of driving experience are nine times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash (per 100 million miles of vehicle travel) than the safest group of drivers - those between the ages of 45 and 60. Younger novice female drivers (again, 16 year olds) are almost four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers in the safest cohorts. The enactment of tougher drinking and driving laws, Graduated Driver Licensing programs, and better record-keeping by motor vehicle agencies have helped lower death and injury rates as shown by decreases in novice driver risk-taking behaviors. But decreases in the other key aspect of the young novice driver crash problem- the lack of cognitive and perceptual skills and abilities that are important for safe driving- have not kept pace with other developments, and this continues to block overall improvements in safety. Experts have estimated that anywhere between 75% and 80% of the crashes among novice drivers are due to the lack of such cognitive skills and abilities.

Skilled operator training using simulators has become increasingly accepted in many industries during the past twenty years. In applications as diverse as commercial aviation and nuclear power plant control, simulators have become so well accepted that individuals can be fully trained and licensed in simulators without ever having operated the actual equipment "in the field”. However, neither affordable simulators nor proven novice driver risk awareness training programs have been available until very recently.

We have developed a unique driving simulator that is particularly well suited to training novice drivers. The Drive Square simulator permits the use of the actual vehicle driven by the novice driver, and is completely portable. These two patent-pending advances overcome major constraints that adversely impact novice drivers training such as the cost of driver education programs to train a novice driver using a simulator and whether training skills learned transfer to the open road. Additionally, we have developed and evaluated a unique, PC- based novice driver risk-awareness training program that has more than tripled novice drivers awareness of risks in a broad range of different scenarios that can and do lead to crashes.

This project will refine and test the Drive Square simulator's software and hardware; extend the PC-based novice driver training program to the high-fidelity simulator at the University of Massachusetts so that training actually occurs on the simulator (not just the PC), thereby potentially magnifying the effectiveness of the training still further evaluate the effectiveness of the simulator training program on the high-fidelity simulator. The project will also demonstrate that the Drive Square simulator can be used for training benefits equivalent to what is achieved on the high-fidelity simulator.