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Simulator Demonstrates Tire Blowout Safety System

March 6, 2011

Visitors to the Shanghai Auto Show in April will have the unique opportunity to drive the famous Hangzhou Bay Bridge in a driving simulator constructed at UMTRI.

Former UMTRI research scientist Tom Gillespie, now with Mechanical Simulation Corporation of Ann Arbor, developed the simulator with his colleague, Dr. Jin Hu, and UMTRI engineers to demonstrate a tire blowout safety system for the Geely auto company.

When a tire blowout occurs, a vehicle can become hard to handle. The simulator allows people to see just how difficult that situation can be.

"In the simulator, people will experience a tire blowout while driving," Gillespie said. "Then we'll turn the safety system on, and they'll be able to see the improvement in vehicle handling."

The driver sits in a cab replicating the interior of a vehicle and "drives" across the Hangzhou Bay Bridge displayed across three computer screens.

"We took a lot of care to get the details of the bridge right," said Gillespie, who added that a driving simulator built by Mechanical Simulation for last year's auto show was extremely popular.

photo of UMTRI employee driving in the simulator

Perched several feet off the ground, the simulator cab sits on a platform moved by six actuators that can replicate the motion of an actual vehicle. The driver steering and throttle control inputs are fed to CarSim, a vehicle simulation program developed by Mechanical Simulation, that computes the vehicle motion, which is then transmitted to the actuators.

The simulator took two months to construct. UMTRI engineers John Koch, Mark Gilbert, and Brian Eby helped build the simulator, which was shipped to China on February 25.

For more information about the auto show, see Auto Shanghai 2011.

Photos by Joyce Daniels, UMTRI