Missouri students use driving simulator to test roadway design

The students used the simulator to evaluate a roadway design for the $18.6 million Route 160 widening project before its construction

May 15, 2019
Road driving simulator testing Missouri S&T; MoDOT

Two undergraduate students at Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T) used a driving simulator to help a civil engineering firm evaluate a new roadway design for the $18.6 million Route 160 widening project from Springfield to Willard, Missouri.

The students worked with Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc. (CMT), a civil engineering firm with an office in Springfield, which designed the expansion of Route 160 to widen it from two lanes to four and replace some intersections with roundabouts. The company completed the design for the Missouri DOT (MoDOT).

CMT invested $30,000 in Missouri S&T student research to develop simulations of the existing and proposed roadway, using the driving simulator on campus, and test it with actual drivers. The firm decided to add the testing to establish a baseline of data on driver behavior for the existing roadway before and after the improvements. Reps from CMT say the existing corridor is a high-crash area with numerous fatalities, and is currently a priority for MoDOT.

David Doell, a senior from Eureka, Missouri, who graduates this week with a degree in engineering management, and Matt DeMoss, an S&T senior from Ozark, Missouri, who also graduates this week with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, worked as a team to test the new roadway design. 

Last summer, Doell learned the technical side of running the driving simulator. He taught himself a coding language called Python to program the simulator on campus. DeMoss joined him in November 2018. He prepared and converted the design drawings from CMT for Doell to input into the simulator’s software. Then, they recruited 27 participants from ages 16 to 67 in the Rolla area to drive simulations of the current Route 160 and the proposed design of the roadway. They collected demographic data about each volunteer’s driving habits as well as their verbal comments regarding their comprehension of the roadway navigation and signage while driving the two routes.

As roundabouts are becoming a more common solution to reduce driver speed and improve safety, CMT wanted to work with Missouri S&T to obtain data on the conditions before and after construction to help measure their benefits.

DeMoss and Doell say this sort of simulation research could benefit both engineers and DOTs. The students also say that overall their participants were comfortable driving the roadway in the simulation.

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Source: Missouri S&T

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