Simulations are an important development tool in the automobile and utility vehicle. The properties of vehicle components, such as how they respond in an accident, their reliability, or their energy efficiency can be investigated using simulations before the first component is manufactured. Researchers developed an interactive driving simulator using RODOS (robot-based driving and operation simulator) with which realistic interaction between human and vehicle can be analyzed.

The vehicle simulator has 18 projectors that throw images up on a huge dome. The vehicle interior can simulate nearly every driving situation. (© Fraunhofer ITWM)
The researchers have shifted to a hybrid design for simulation. Hybrid means a real person interacts with a simulation environment — a well-known example of this is a flight simulator, in which pilots regularly practice extreme situations. The simulation facility's structure consists of a real vehicle interior where the test driver can operate the steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes as usual. The vehicle interior is integrated into a 6-axis robotic system that looks like a gigantic gripper arm and can simulate acceleration, braking, or tight curves by leaning and rotating.

Motion cueing algorithms generate the control signals for the robot in close cooperation with researchers in cognition. The motions of the simulator can be matched to visual input so they are perceived as very natural by the test drivers. At the same time, an enormous projection dome provides the external impression of real driving. Eighteen projectors provide a realistic 300-degree view of the situation for the driver.