Inauguration of CARRS-Q driving Simulator (QUT Australia)

STATE Treasurer Andrew Fraser drove head-on into a bus on the Captain Cook Highway in North Queensland yesterday - and stepped out of the car without a scratch.
He was testing a $1.5 million Advanced Driving Simulator, the latest weapon in the fight to reduce the road toll.

"This is the most serious computer game I've ever played but it also has the capacity to change people's lives," he said.

The Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland (CARSS-Q) simulator features a fully working Holden Calais on pneumatic hoists in front of 180-degree, life-size screens connected to a raft of computers that move the car to provide a real-world driving experience.

"The technology is amazing. You can hear the engine, feel the bumps, feel the weight of the steering wheel and the brakes," Mr Fraser said.

Project technical director Andrew Haines said the simulator would be used to research driver behaviour in dangerous situations - such as fatigue, drink-driving and speeding - in the safety of a laboratory.

He said it had six directions of movement, making it more technologically advanced than a similar machine used at Melbourne's Monash University which has only three directions of movement.

"It even simulates the braking and acceleration effect," Mr Haines said.

CARRS-Q director Professor Barry Watson said road crashes cost the community more than $17 billion a year.

"This state-of-the-art facility will enable road safety researchers to study what would otherwise be logistically, practically and ethically difficult to do out on the open road," he said.

"We couldn't sleep-deprive a volunteer and send them out on the road, but we can do it here in complete safety."

The software includes real-life scenery, such as Brisbane's CBD and the Captain Cook Highway, with more real roads being developed in 3D. The simulator was bought from French company Oktal and adapted to suit researchers' needs. They can add potholes, kangaroos and other obstacles as they like to test various driver behaviours.

Prof Watson said they would direct the research, but the Government could also have some input.

"We have a program of research set aside, but we will work with the State Government to determine priorities," he said.

Earmarked research projects include studies on improving safety at railway crossings and the impact of whiplash on driver performance.

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