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Brunel centre drives research into human factors of train driving with new simulator

The Ergonomics Research Group at Brunel University plans to further research in the rail sector with its new train-driving simulator. The simulator will be used to research the human factors of train driving, such as driver attention, workload and fatigue, focusing on driver-machine interface issues, task and equipment design, workload, and competence. Projects lined up include the development of radical new cab interface designs for future train drivers and the investigation into the wider use of simulation in driver training programmes.

The simulator, supplied by FAAC UK, provides the capability to investigate human factor issues in a safe, repeatable environment, and manipulate the train driver's environment to test the effectiveness of new signal designs, layouts or cab systems without the associated impacts on fleet or assets.

Based on two high-end laptop computers and using a professional joystick for driver inputs, the simulator offers portability for experimental studies either in the centre's laboratory or on location at drivers' depots.

Cab interface design issues are a key focus area for the research group as driver information needs and performance requirements are set to change significantly in the future. Alarms will be rationalized, the driver will have an integrated display system and task demands will increase. The simulator will enable the team to assess the impacts these changes will have on the driver and use this knowledge to design an optimal interface.

A realistic track database models the North Pole depot in West London with geographical precision, and the vehicle model is based on Class 373 (Eurostar) stock. Extensions to these track and vehicle models will be developed for specific projects as they arise.

The simulator extends the transport capability of the Ergonomics Research Group, complementing its existing car driving simulator.