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New driving simulator fueling interdisciplinary research

A professor demonstrating what a drive looks like using the Department of Psychology's new Driving SimulatorDid we just hear cars racing on the third floor of the Social Sciences Building?

At first glance, it looks like a classic arcade car game, complete with a seat, steering wheel, pedals and a seatbelt. As the driver grips the steering wheel, their peripheral vision is flooded with the scenery of lush landscapes, bustling city streets and winding mountain roads. The sensation of being behind the wheel is uncannily realistic.

The Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida has partnered with Systems Technology to introduce a Driving Safety and Transportation Research (DSTR, pronounced “DEE-Star”) lab on campus this summer. This lab will allow students and faculty to conduct research on how age, personality, mental conditions and a wide range of other factors impact driving behaviors. The researchers can program the simulator with different driving environments, weather elements and road hazards for testing.

The psychology department is beginning multiple engaging interdisciplinary projects using the driving simulator including studying human decision-making while driving in complex and dangerous situations, physical and cognitive training for older drivers, drivers' attention in construction zones, fatigue's impact on driving and how transportation infrastructure affects driving behavior.