Motor vehicles must be safe and easy to use. Assessments are performed both in real vehicles and in driving simulators. However, many driving simulators are too expensive to purchase, too complex to use, take too long to program, and sometimes lack the desired functional characteristics. The goal of this project is to build an easy-to-use driving simulator platform through the creative use of free software (e.g., CARLA, Roadrunner), simple hardware, and student creativity to develop a driving simulator suitable to support research on driver distraction, driver workload, and driver interfaces for partially-automated vehicles. 

Our team is (1) creating driveable simulations of real roads (e.g., North Campus, I-94 from Ann  Arbor to the Detroit airport), (2) creating GUIs that allow us to rapidly simulate specific scenarios  (e.g., lane changes at specific times or places), (3) developing software to simulate partially and fully automated vehicles using the Wizard of Oz method, and (4) interfacing a low-cost motion base for the driver to provide increased realism.  The team is also producing documentation, both written and video summaries, so the applications developed can be used by students and research staff without strong computer backgrounds. In addition to software development, students will learn team skills, how to build prototypes, and eventually conduct experiments with users of software/hardware to validate ease of use and functional requirements. 

Team Organization

This team has flexible subteams that allow students to deepen their learning. The teams are flexibly structured to enhance creativity and opportunity for student growth. Each of the subteams has a student team leader or leaders, largely determined by the subteam, that reports to the faculty PI. Leaders are typically those that have some degree of experience with the team and those roles are not determined by academic level. Often, the leaders are undergraduate students.

First-year undergraduates through master’s graduate students are welcome to apply, and all will be encouraged to stay on the team for more than the 2-semester minimum (which starts in January of 2024).

Below are the skills needed for this project. Students with the following relevant skills and interest in the project are encouraged to apply! Although the team consists of subteams, students apply to the project as a whole, rather than individual roles on the team.

Software Engineer (7 Students)  

Specific Tasks: Virtual world creation, programming of GUI, data management  

Desirable Skills: Coding (In Python and C), data management skills, experience with creating gaming platforms, knowledge of CARLA, Roadrunner, and Unreal engine  

Likely Majors: CS, SI, DATA (required courses: EECS 280 is most important, EECS 281 is valuable) 

Motion Platform Algorithm Engineer (3 Students)  

Specific Tasks: Develop motion platform algorithms and interface with software  

Desirable Skills: Experience with robots, knowledge of Python, knowledge of CARLA, Roadrunner  

Likely Majors: ME, ROB, CE, EE

Human Factors and Interface Specialists (2 Students)  

Specific Tasks: Develop scenarios and interface between driver/occupants, simulator and road systems, support GUI development  

Likely Majors: CEE, SE, IOE, URP, SI

Apprentice Researcher (3 Students)  

Requirements: Interest in project material, willingness to develop skills. Students will be integrated into the operations of a subteam. Open to first- and second-year undergraduate students ONLY.  

Likely Majors: ANY 

Faculty Sponsor

Headshot of Paul Green

Paul Green, Ph.D.

Dr. Green is a research professor in UMTRI’s Driver Interface Group and an adjunct research professor in the University of Michigan Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE). He teaches automotive human factors and human-computer interaction classes. He is the leader of U-M’s Human Factors Engineering Short Course, the flagship continuing-education course in the profession, now approaching its 62nd year. Dr. Green also leads a research team that focuses on driver distraction, driver workload, workload managers, navigation-system design, and motor-vehicle controls and displays. More recently, the team has expanded their focus to include partially automated vehicles. That research makes extensive use of instrumented cars and driving simulators.

Weekly Meeting Time and Location: Our MDP team meets in-person on Tuesdays 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm ET in Room 3358AB in the Duderstadt Library on North Campus. In addition, subteams meet by themselves about once per week at a time of their choosing.  Some work can be done on students’ own computers, but most are not fast enough and students spend too many weeks trying to get the CARLA software to work. For that reason, we have set up 3 computers with CARLA and steering wheel/pedal assemblies and a motion base in the UMTRI Building, room 310 on North Campus, 2901 Baxter Road. For safety reasons, that software is not to be operated remotely. 

To be successful on this team, students must be on-time and prepared for meetings.  Students are expected to ask questions and participate in discussions, show initiative, and be engaged in all aspects of this project.

Course Substitutions: Honors, CS-ENGR/DS-ENGR/EE/CE-ENGR 355 and higher can count toward Flex Tech

These substitutions/departmental courses are available for students in these respective majors.  MDP does not yet have a formal agreement with other departments for substitutions/departmental courses not listed.  Please reach out to your home department’s academic advisor about how you might apply MDP credits to your degree plan. 

Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus 

IP/NDA: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement prior to participation in January 2024

Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students

Learn more about the expectations for this type of MDP project