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National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) Administration


Human factors play a large role in crash causation, and are aggravated due to limited visibility under night driving conditions. Statistics show a large portion of crashes occurring during nighttime conditions, when limited visibility can aggravate the influence of other high risk factors (fatigue, distraction, age, impairment) [1]. Nighttime illumination conditions include head lighting, fixed luminaries, and the reflection properties of all elements in the visual field. Head lighting issues also include beam pattern, brightness and atmospheric scattering. Human factors considerations include the veiling glare produced inside the eye due to glare sources such as opposing headlights. The NHTSA uses simulation extensively to study human factors associated with crash causation, and providing nighttime illumination conditions is important for comprehensive evaluation. This SBIR topic addresses the need for implementing night visibility conditions in simulation graphics rendering systems.

Rendering nighttime visibility conditions involves the location of light sources (headlighting, luminaires), modeling the reflective properties of elements in the roadway environment, and modeling the head lighting beam pattern and atmospheric scattering conditions [2, 3]. Glare effects occur in the eye and the typical brightness conditions of simulation displays are not able to reproduce the high brightness of opposing headlights. Therefore the glare effect must also be simulated [4].

Phase I will address rendering simulated nighttime visibility conditions including:

  1. Headlighting including beam pattern, atmospheric scattering and simulated glare of opposing headlights
  2. Defining the reflection properties of roadway elements including the road surface, road markings, other vehicles and signs and retro reflective delineation
  3. Fixed luminaires

Expected Phase I Outcome:  Demonstrate the ability to render static nighttime scenes including all of the above effects.

Expected Phase II Outcome:  Implementing the nighttime rendering system in a low cost driving simulation suitable for economical human factors studies.

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