University of Padova

Virtual Road

Project Description

This project is done in collaboration with the Road Engineering Research Group of the Department of Construction and Transport (prof. Marco Pasetto) (University of Padova), with the objective to investigate the interaction between man, vehicle, road and environment, proposing an innovative approach to road infrastructure planning and design, which contributes towards integrating within the ambits of the criteria usually considered in the road design, the ergonomic and perceptive aspects correlated to the presence of the human component. The specific aim of the study is to verify if and to what extent the insertion of the latest technological discoveries in the field of road perception countermeasures can realistically determine a benefit to traffic safety, and in which operative conditions are they most indicated.

During the present research, the more “vulnerable” elements of the road (curves, intersections, road singularities) will be investigated, with the purpose to define guide-lines and specifications useful to make safer (in a first step) road design and construction and, consequently, road use (main goal). The research will be subsequently oriented to go into the correlation between drivers’ behaviour, in the “complete” road alignment (vulnerable and not vulnerable elements), and environmental background, defining the most appropriate criteria in order to design safe road spaces. After an application and evaluation of the research results on trafficked roads (in Padua Province), the necessary upgrading of the road design standards will be proposed and new directives for a “project of the road space” will be delivered.

A participant driving in the virtual road A participant driving in the virtual road
Work Description

The research activities will be conducted along two non-independent parallel lines, based on instrumental measurements within a real trial context and on a reconstruction of the same in a virtual environment, using suitable graphic elaboration and spatial modelling equipment. The methodological approach will derive from the integration of the techniques of road engineering and those in the field of applied ergonomics and psychology, and in particular of the most reliable tools for the evaluation of the capacity for cognitive learning and recognition in the much vaster field of visual perception while driving.

The research activities will consist of surveys of passing traffic and the use of appropriate test samples, specifically identified and corresponding to the research requirements. The speed surveys will be conducted in a continuous cycle using laser traffic-counting equipment, with the aim of acquiring cumulative information referring both to the trend of the surveyed parameters during the day (according to the time of day) and during the week (according to the day of the week).

The scheduled activities are the following:

Phase 1. Update of literature references with most recent scientific studies and international standards informations. Really, the research team has a well-furnished data-base of scientific publications yet; so this step will be quite short.

Phase 2. Identification of vulnerable geometrical elements of roads to be studied. Curves, intersections, road singularities of different road networks will be identified, classified, surveyed. Traffic will be monitored continuosly. The same sites will be recreated in virtual environment.

Phase 3. Calibration of virtual environment. The different scenarios in virtual environment will be calibrated and validated by means of real road users.

Phase 4. Introduction of variables. New vulnerable elements of roads will be identified, while the old ones will be “modified” by means of variables such as weather, road signing and marking, light, etc.

Phase 5. Validation of virtual environment. The “old” and “new” scenarios will be validated through experimental sites, and will be used in order to off-site reproduce the behaviour of road drivers in real road elements.

Screenshot of the virtual road Screenshot of the virtual road

After a first phase in which vulnerable geometrical elements of a real extraurban road have been identified and monitored, passing traffic speeds have been measured and graphically represented in specific speed profiles for each directions. In parallel, the same road context has been reconstructed in virtual environment and calibrated on the basis of the real soeed values determined so as to assure a good relationship between real and simulated results.
Actually, some variables have been introducted on the virtual road context in terms both of vertical signs and of horizontal markings with the aim of verifying the real effectiveness of the technital solutions on the driver perception both in daytime and nighttime light conditions.

Graph showing speed profile Graph showing speed profile

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