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Time waits for no sim : lessons from a road safety research simulator

conference contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Anjum NaweedAnjum Naweed, Ganesh Balakrishnan, Matthew ThomasMatthew Thomas
Designing field studies for research in the surface transport sector can be challenging, particularly whenthe necessary road and rail conditions are difficult to control and project deadlines dictate the delivery of findings.Under these circumstances, a simulator may expedite the study process and provide the requisite control needed tofulfil research aims. This paper describes the case study of a road safety research simulator that was designed toexplore how a novel safety technology influenced driving behaviour at rail level crossings. The study sought todetermine any changes to both light and heavy vehicle driver behaviour in the presence of oncoming trains in allconfigurations of Australian level crossing. A field-based study was deemed logistically and ethically impossible toplan, undertake, and control for in the field, but also unfeasible due the stringent time constraints for the delivery offindings. Consequently, a research plan for a simulator study was devised. This was based on the time needed todesign and specify a suitable simulated task environment from the ground-up, and the time required for designing andconducting a study that was scientifically robust. Despite the careful planning, significant barriers emerged whentranslating the envisaged study into practice. These manifested during the iterative stages of simulator design, and thelatter stages of the study itself. Initially, disparate and conflicting expectations between the research team and thesimulator developer impacted the fidelity and tractability design of the simulation, and during the study, unexpectedissues arose with data collection, harmonisation, and calibration of equipment. This paper describes how thesebarriers were overcome, and provides a commentary of some unanticipated tension points that may be encounteredwhen designing simulators that achieve industry goals without compromising ‘good science.’ This paper emphasisesthe importance for crossing boundaries through its lessons to (1) ‘specify’ and to (2) ‘transcend your discipline.’


Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)


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Brisbane, Australia


Simulation Australia

Place of Publication

Adelaide, SA

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

Appleton Institute for Behavioural Sciences;

Era Eligible

  • Yes

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