Highways Study
VRSiMM Programme

Virtual Reality Simulation in Managed Motorways

Collaboration: Maelstrom & Risk Solutions backed by the SBRI for the Department for Transport & the Highways Agency.

The Department for Transport and the Highways Agency decided to use the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) to explore the use of ‘synthetic environments’ applied to transport. The technique was used to model traffic flows on managed motorways, and the strategies used by traffic controllers to manage traffic in peak periods. Three separate teams were charged with developing a prototype model.

Maelstrom working with Risk Solutions & Dr Mark Young (A Human Factors expert from Brunel University) developed a simulated version of the M42 ATM section. This replicates traffic flows under different conditions; traffic volumes, lighting and weather conditions and shows how vehicles react to measures employed by the traffic controllers. The aim of the project was to produce a realistic prototype that will include a workstation similar to that used by controllers – including the ability to select CCTV images from any of the 200+ cameras located on the route and data displays on traffic volumes and speeds. Controllers are able to control the flow onto the motorway, switch to hard shoulder running, display variable message signs and change the speed limit.

The traffic flow model  created by teaming partner Risk Solutions used sample MIDAS loop data to accurately simulate the traffic flow. Maelstrom were responsible for the creation of the simulated environment featuring over 19km of the M42 from junctions 3a to 7 as well as generating a vast array of vehicle types.

Instructor Station: 

The VRSiMM system comprises of two networked pc systems, the first is an instructor control station, and the second system is the student interface with the synthetic managed motorway controls. The instructor initially loads a Midas loop dataset from a specific day and can then choose the time of days that they would like the simulation to begin.

Below is a video showing the system in operation.

Training System:

The student end of the system has the controls to monitor the motorway through a simulated camera network and can alter lane speeds and request to start procedures for the opening of the hard shoulder at busier times. Whilst the simulation is running the instructor has controls to instigate specific events or alter weather conditions that will directly affect the simulation events that will require a response from the trainee.

Simulated Training:

  • Simulation started by loading day specific MIDAS loop data.
  • Select time of day and weather conditions.
  • Edit traffic flow data at junctions.
  • Start simulation.
  •  Simulation runs and instructor triggers events
  • Student monitors the traffic using CCTV camera views on both carriageways.
  • System can simulate breakdowns, debris in road and traffic officer vehicles.
  • Open & Close hard shoulder running through a series of controlled checks.
  • Change electronic traffic signs & speed restriction signage.
  • Automated and control based on simulated traffic flow.