6 Tips to Help You Design Your Own Driving Scenario

In our last blog post, we introduced you to a few of our latest and greatest driving scenarios. While we do our best to cover as many driving scenarios as we can, there might be a time when your research has specific requirements that aren’t part of the software – yet.

Today, we’re going to give you a few tips to help you create driving scenarios of your own, should you need to. Before you start getting into designing a scenario from scratch, did you see a scenario somewhere that might work for you? You can pull sections of a drive out of an existing scenario and drop them into a new scenario. It’s best to start there and if you still need to add something, keep reading for some tips from the pros!

When In Doubt, Plan It Out

First and foremost, start with a plan! The best way to ensure you get the data you need is to plan out what you’re looking for and how best to collect it. Skipping this step will only lead to frustration and headaches.

Decide: what data do you need to collect?

Before getting into roads and events and all the other fun details of a drive, you need to decide what information you want to collect from the simulator drivers. The data you need will determine which “critical events” and driving sequences should be in the scenario – and if the simulator can record that data.

For example, if you want to test a driver’s perception during an unexpected critical roadway event, you might want to collect data about reaction time and how the driver solved the problem during the task.

Once you’ve decided on the data you need, then it’s time to consider what type of event would cause the reactions you need to measure. Say, in this case above, a potential head on collision.

Now you’ve determined that the data you need is reaction time and how the problem was solved, so the next step would be to decide how to get that data from the simulator. In the case of the potential head on collision, reaction time could be measured by how long it takes the driver to turn the steering wheel or press the brake pedal. You could measure the “problem solving” by looking at what countermeasure they used; was it a combination of steering and braking? Just steering? Just braking?

For this scenario you now know what type of event you need to add (potential head on collision), and what driver output you need to measure (steering and pedal inputs, speed, lane position data). That makes moving on to the next steps a lot easier!

Design a Critical Event to Elicit the Right Reaction

Using the example above, a potential head on collision, you’ll need to design an event that brings another car directly into the path of the driver. A car that swerves from traffic going in the opposite direction, a car running a red light, or turning into the wrong lane, for example.

As another example, if you’re creating a merge event this will require a blocked or dropped lane, and traffic in an adjacent lane that the driver must merge into. (Don’t worry too much about the exact timing of this; you can determine that later during the scenario refinement).

Layout the Roadway

Keeping all your planning in mind, now’s the time to think about what kind of roadway you’ll need for your scenario. Pay particular attention to where your intersections, curves, and hills are located. It’s important to do this early on because you’ll need to add the critical events and performance measures at agreeable roadway locations.

For example, the potential head on collision would be more likely to naturally take place going around a curve, a merge event would be more likely to happen near an intersection, or a steering task should take place on a straight road so that roadway curves aren’t part of the data you collect.

Laying out the roadway ahead of time also gives you the ability to space out the critical events so that they’re not clumped together.

Add the Critical Events

Now that you’ve got your roadway planned out, add the critical events. This is the time to iterate between the roadway design and the events so that everything fits and is spaced out sufficiently. It’s crucial to pay attention to how you position the events; you wouldn’t want events interacting with one another!

Add the Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the static objects like buildings, parked cars, trees, roadway signs, etc, that make the scenario more interesting to the driver.

Add Benign Events

The final step in this design process is to add in some benign events. These are events that look like the critical events, but should not cause the driver to react. This can be as simple as ambient traffic driving along the road, or more complex like the same set up as a critical event, but without the event occurring.

Now, Time to Design!

There is no right or wrong way to develop a scenario, but these tips should make the process more efficient – and reduce headaches!