To investigate the redesign solutions, SMEC proposed an innovative methodology, utilising a digital model of the Burnley Tunnel in Virtual Reality (VR) to examine potential changes to physical attributes and the impact on driver behaviour. With support from SMEC’s subconsultant, Snobal, VR models were developed based on our specialist design advice, enabling the team to gather large data sets from the VR driving rig, such as eye tracking and biometrics to gain a deeper understanding of driver behaviour.
Road design and driver behaviour are intrinsically linked
One of the solutions Transurban is exploring is dynamic ‘pacemaker’ lighting systems which consists of LED lights on the tunnel walls, which move at the signed speed limit, to regulate traffic flow speed more effectively. Transurban selected some it its customers to participate in a public testing trial of the VR models. Participants virtually drove through the tunnel in its current form and again in a new model which illustrated different lighting, wall coating and the dynamic pacemaker lighting.
This methodology adds significantly more value than a static digital model because it includes a new dimension – it provides a dynamic experience of the asset. This delivers increased value to clients seeking to measure outcomes prior to expensive design stages, which ultimately benefits the users who drive through the tunnel every day. The improvement options tested during the project will be trialled and will inform the performance specifications and detailed design for the solution.