Rally School Uses Simulation to Enable Driver Training

Team O’Neil Rally School and Car Control Center has recently partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop and implement the best synthetic driver skills training possible. 

Team O’Neil, long known for rally car driver training, offers a safe driving environment for students to learn to be better drivers and improve their responses to a variety of less than perfect driving scenarios. Students learn skid control, accident avoidance, and vehicle dynamics.

The Army Corps of Engineering  Synthetic Automotive Virtual Environments (SAVE) project is designed to perform research in high-speed, loose-surface vehicles, tires, human dynamics; and to apply understanding to dynamic stability control systems, autonomous systems, tire-deformable road design, and ultimately to driver skills training.  The ultimate goal is to reduce the cost and number of motor vehicle accidents within the U.S. Military and nationwide (Synthetic Automotive Virtual Environments, 2011).

Together, Team O’Neil and the Army Corps of Engineers bring significant driving and training experience to the project.

Description: Team ONeil Training.jpg

Figure 1: Team O’Neil Road Course Training
(Picture courtesy of Team O’Neil Rally School and Car Control Center)

  Traditional Training

Traditionally, organizations like Team O’Neil, and the U.S. Army, have offered driver training for both commercial and military applications.  While effective, the cost, resources and properties required to support the training have proven impractical.  Individuals are generally enrolled in one to five day courses, each requiring classroom and instructor time, vehicle properties and road course access.  Given the size of the military audience, and the need for improved driver skills nationwide, another supporting method was required. 

Professional race car drivers who help to conduct traditional Army driver training suggested that more soldiers would benefit if a portable, military-optimized driving simulator were available (New Simulator Sharpens Skills on Unpaved Roads, 2010)

A simulator, operable 24x7, can provide a significant increase in practice opportunities involving maneuverability in rough road situations.  Increased practice results in “muscle memory” as it relates to a driver’s automatic reaction to hazardous conditions. 

Simulation to Enable Training

Team O’Neil soon partnered with Realtime Technologies, Inc. (and other hardware specialists) to provide a simulator to support the SAVE project. 

SimCraft, and Force Dynamics designed and developed passenger compartment “sleds” to support the hardware portion of the project (See Figure 2).  The resulting simulator hardware includes:

  • A light-weight hardware base (250lbs.)

  • Visual system field of view

  • 3 DOF motion base

  • Reconfigurable cockpit

  • Portable chassis – on cas


Description: simulator.png
Figure 2: SAVE Driving Simulator
(Picture courtesy of U.S. Army Corp of Engineers – SAVE Project)

Realtime Technologies, Inc. customized its SimCreator software to accommodate the hardware defined, generate realistic scenarios, and report simulation results.

Realtime Technologie’s customized SimCreator software supports four different vehicle models:

  • HMMWV (Humvee)

  • MAVT (Mine Resistant All Terrain Vehicle)

  • Passenger vehicle with ABS

  • Passenger vehicle without ABS

         Scenarios developed with the software include:

  • Accident avoidance

  • Rollover recovery

  • Soft shoulder recovery

Depending upon the vehicle selected, and the scenario defined, RTI’s software customizes the simulation experience to closely match real course conditions.

As participants interact with the scenarios in the simulator, the RTI software monitors multiple metrics, including brake and steering reaction, accelerator use, and vehicle speed (See Figure 3).  These metrics, compared with those of professional course drivers, provide quantitative support for participant improvement in the simulated experience.

Description: metrics.png
Figure 3: Scenario Metric Tracking

(Picture courtesy of U.S. Army Corp of Engineers – SAVE Project)

Vision Tracking

Another key metric monitored includes eye/vision tracking.“One of the really important things to do in avoiding an accident is to look at where you want to go, not at the obstacle you might hit,”  emphasized Sally Shoop, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab (Synthetic Automotive Virtual Environments, 2011).

To satisfy this requirement, RTI worked to integrate existing commercial hardware (Mobileeye eye tracker, and NaturalPoint TrackIR head tracker) into their software to obtain an accurate "line of sight" vector which is then projected into the scene to determine where the driver is looking at any time.

Figure 4 illustrates what the driver sees during the approach to the accident avoidance scenario.  Upon receiving the stop command (as shown on screen, and as an audio cue), the driver is supposed to begin scanning for exits.  A few seconds later, the driver receives instruction on whether he/she should turn left or right.

Description: aa.png
Figure 4: Accident Avoidance Scenario
(Picture courtesy of Realtime Technologies, Inc.)

Figure 5 illustrates the result of the eye tracker as the driver approached the scenario.  The dark arrows indicate the direction the driver was looking at each point along the course; the light arrows indicate where he should have been looking (based upon the results of an expert driver driving the course).

Description: Visualization_09_02_11_14_16_15.png
Figure 5: Eye Gaze Direction
(Picture courtesy of Realtime Technologies, Inc.)

Continued simulation and practice using these tools develop the muscle memory necessary for application in an eventual road course environment.  Once proficiency is gained in the simulated environment, drivers are taken to the road course for mastery of their new skills in the real-world environment.

Simulation Advantages

Tim O’Neil, founder of Team O’Neil believes that, “One of the biggest advantages of simulated drivers training is the non subjective way a computer can provide feedback.  Human driving instructors are not as consistent and take a significant amount of time and effort to develop.  With simulated training we can put people in scenarios that we could never safely generate in a live environment.  In that way simulated training is better than live training.  But when you couple simulation with live training, it improves the experience and outcome overall” (O’Neil, 2011)

For more information, contact Richard Romano, President, Realtime Technologies,  +1 248.705.0705.  email: romano@simcreator.com


New Simulator Sharpens Skills on Unpaved Roads. (2010, March 12). Retrieved from Synthetic Automotive Virtual Environment: http://save.crrel.usace.army.mil/documents/DoD_Article-2010_0312.pdf

Synthetic Automotive Virtual Environments. (2011, September 30). Retrieved from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: http://save.usace.army.mil/

O’Neil, T. (2011, September 15). Founder, Team O’Neil Rally School and Car Control Center.

Home |  Simulators  |  Other Products  |  Support Demo Videos  |  Documents  |  News & Events  |  Contact   |  About

Realtime Technologies, Inc.
Copyright 2004-2013 Realtime Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.

Realtime Technologies Inc. (RTI) specializes in real time multibody vehicle dynamics, and graphical simulation and modeling.  We offer simulation software applications, consulting, custom engineering, software, and hardware development.  Realtime Technologies’ customer base includes international, government and private entities.  RTI was founded in 1998.