Multi-Disciplinary Pedestrian-in-the-Loop Simulator

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Institute for Transport Studies


Pedestrians represented roughly 24% of road fatalities and 22% of the seriously injured in the UK in 2015 (Department for Transport, Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2015, Annual Report). The most commonly recorded factors were: "in accidents where a pedestrian was killed or injured; pedestrian failed to look properly was reported in 59 per cent of accidents. Failed to judge other person's path or speed was the most typical secondary cause." (DfT, 2015)

In this context, the increased use of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) and new urban warning systems that can help monitor and assist pedestrians and their interactions with vehicles has the potential to dramatically reduce road deaths. A major concern, however, is that the AVs and warning systems must be designed to take into account the capabilities and limitations of pedestrians.

This project will develop a new pedestrian laboratory to support safe experimental research in a repeatable fashion in which a variety of variables with respect to AV design, warning system design, and intersection configuration can be studied. The experiments can also look at the impacts of a wide range of human factors including age, vision and mobility.

The pedestrian laboratory (PEDSIM) will consist of a Virtual Reality (VR) simulator that will allow a participant to experience a variety of urban configurations and interact with new vehicles and urban robots. The pedestrian laboratory will track the participant's performance in a variety of tasks to compare the effectiveness of various designs.

What makes the PEDSIM unique in the world is its very high resolution displays combined with its large walkable environment (9 metres by 4 metres) and its integration with driving simulators to test interactions between pedestrians and drivers.

As automated and autonomous vehicles get closer to deployment, research into their design and impact has rapidly increased. There are several studies currently funded by the EPSRC that can take immediate advantage of the new research capabilities of the PEDSIM. These include research to evaluate solutions for cooperative interaction of automated vehicles and urban robots with pedestrians and research that will test various lighting conditions and its impact on visibility, trip hazards, and understanding intentions of other pedestrians and vehicles.

Planned Impact

The aim of PEDSIM is to provide a true-to-life, CAVE-based, simulated walking environment, for addressing a number of key research questions on human performance and interaction relevant to both today and tomorrow's needs. The PEDSIM will also be integrated with the other well established simulator facilities at the University of Leeds, to provide a distributed simulation suite, as part of the Virtuocity concept, delivering a pioneering and unique research environment in the UK for investigating the interaction of humans with new technologies and infrastructures, in a highly-controllable, low-cost and safe setting. Work achieved by the PEDSIM will provide the full range of impacts, including creating wealth, enhancing knowledge, informing policy, and improving quality of life.

Economic Impact -Work conducted on the PEDSIM and the distributed simulation suite is relevant to a vast range of disciplines, providing knowledge on matters such as: the design of effective road and pavement layouts for tomorrow's cities, understanding how technologies can assist impaired and disabled users, and how pedestrians will communicate with fully automated vehicles. This leads to direct economic benefit, via inward investment from relevant stakeholders wishing to investigate the interaction of humans with their prototypes, saving costs prior to production, and IP and commercialisation of new products and procedures. Research-led teaching programmes, using blended learning techniques, will provide a range of on-line learning platforms, accessible to a global student network, providing new revenue.

Societal Impact - The University of Leeds has a longstanding track record of translating research to knowledge for end-users, industrial partners, policy-makers, and the public at large. These activities are facilitated via direct collaboration, licencing of IP, or spin-out, all of which are used to provide a successful model for translational activity. The PEDSIM will be managed by the internationally renowned team at the University of Leeds Driving Simulator, who have longstanding strategic partnerships with a large group of industrial end-users in the UK, and beyond, including all leading vehicle manufacturers (e.g. Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, VW, Ford, Fiat, Renault and Nissan). International development will be achieved by addressing future research needs on human factors of automated vehicles, discussed by members of the group at high-level UK, US and European steering group meetings such as the H2020 Transport Advisory Group, the EC's Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA), and the EC's high level GEAR2030 group, assembled to "boost competitiveness and growth in the automotive sector".

Academic Impact forms part of the critical pathway towards economic and societal impact. The PEDSIM is accessible to a multidisciplinary team of leading academics in Leeds and beyond, who will disseminate results of research from the facility to an international audience, covering a range of disciplines; from Engineering and Infrastructure Design, to Human Interaction with Robotics, Psychology and Road User Behaviour, Virtual Reality testing, Artificial Intelligence, and Disability Studies. The facility will also provide exciting opportunities for collaboration across disciplines. Each academic partner and collaborator will also use the facility to provide training and new skills to students at undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as enhancing the knowledge and expertise of current and future PDRAs and partnering on development of new teaching modules.
Description A pedestrian in the loop simulator (PEDSIM): a rear projected display system with tracking hardware and computers that provides a 9 by 4 meter corridor down which a participant can walk surrounded by a Virtual Reality (VR) scene has been successfully designed, procured and installed. The key aspects of the PEDSIM that make it unique in the world and capable of supporting new break through research into the interface between pedestrians, autonomous vehicles (AV) and connected transport technologies are the real walking environment and extremely high resolution coupled with the distributed simulation capability that ties in with existing driving simulators. The system consists of 8 4K projectors with a resulting resolution of one pixel per millimeter.
Exploitation Route The PEDSIM will be used to support research in the following areas:

1. Research and development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms that predict the motion, behaviour, and intent of pedestrians and support the negotiation of an agreed order of precedence with pedestrians when controlling vehicles and other autonomous robots. This research will focus on pedestrian interactions with vehicles at the highest automation levels and robots active in the urban environment.
2. Research into the causes of pedestrian injuries and fatalities to facilitate the design and development of new urban infrastructure, training, vehicle driver assistance systems and other interventions that reduce pedestrian casualties.
3. Design and development of new connected technologies that improve access, capacity and mobility across multiple modes of transport within an urban environment while maintaining or improving travel safety.

In addition the PEDSIM will support research into Virtual Reality and testing of soft robotics and exoskeletons that support improved mobility for disabled and older people.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Transport

Description The simulator has been used in two Innovate UK projects. In the first VeriCAV, the HIKER was used to characterize the behaviour of distracted pedestrians. This will be used to increase the safety of the public when crossing roadways as well as improve the detection and interaction of pedestrians by automated vehicles. This provides a safety benefit as well as a competitive advantage for UK companies. The second was the CAM Testbed UK Interoperable Simulation project. This distributed integration with the HIKER allows companies to test their automated vehicle systems by interacting with real pedestrians in a safe environment. Again this will increase pedestrian safety and provide a competitive advantage for UK companies and the greater CAM Testbed partners.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Connected and autonomous vehicles 3: feasibility studies
Amount £220,000 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 03/2020
Description EPSRC Early Career Researcher
Amount £1,200,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 11/2023
Description EU Framework Grant
Amount € 5,527,581 (EUR)
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2017 
End 04/2020
Description HiDrive: Addressing challenges toward the deployment of higher automation
Amount € 37,476,613 (EUR)
Funding ID 101006664 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 06/2021 
End 06/2025
Description Internal Capital Equipment - Floor Projection for Pedestrian Simulator
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Leeds 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 07/2019
Description Research England: VR and ML Laboratory
Amount £53,000 (GBP)
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Department Research England
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 03/2021
Description SHAPE-IT
Amount € 4,098,251 (EUR)
Funding ID 860410 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 09/2019 
End 09/2023
Description Urban Infrastructures of Well-Being 2019
Amount £310,000 (GBP)
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2020 
End 12/2021
Description VeriCAV
Amount £3,074,000 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2020
Description Delft University of Technology HIKER Collaboration 
Organisation Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborated on a pedestrian simulation project for one of Delft's PhD students who visited and used the HIKER pedestrian simulator for their research. We provided expertise on pedestrian vehicle interaction, programmed the scenario and provided access to HIKER. This has led to regular meetings to discuss pedestrian modelling.
Collaborator Contribution The PhD student designed, executed and analyzed the experiment.
Impact One paper provided: External Human-Machine Interfaces Can Be Misleading: An Examination of Trust Development and Misuse in a CAVE-Based Pedestrian Simulation Environment
Start Year 2019