VTI’s new cycling simulator on rollers

The bicycle and the legs of a person when bicycling on the bicycle simulator while watching virtual surrounding on a screen.
VTI's Bicycle simulator. Photo: Katja Kircher.

VTI has developed a new bicycle simulator that differs from all other simulators by being based on free rollers, unlike previous versions that had a fixed roller. The bicycle simulator is part of the development project How We Roll, funded by VTI and SAFER, a research centre on vehicles and road safety at Chalmers. The project was carried out in collaboration with the insurance company If and the consulting company Trivector.

The bicycle simulator was presented on Thursday 8 December 2022 in one of the research institute’s simulator facilities in Linköping. Research leader Katja Kircher and project manager My Weidel talked about the work and thoughts behind the simulator as well as future development, validation and research opportunities. It has taken a year to develop the cycle simulator. The researchers’ goal was to develop a platform that provides as real an experience of cycling as possible.

“I’m glad we’ve come this far, we didn’t really think that was possible. It is fantastic that the simulator has generated so much interest, including from Vätternrundan but also internationally from the Netherlands, Germany and France,” says Katja Kircher.

The simulator has been manufactured entirely at VTI and consists of a stand with three mounted rollers, one at the front and two at the rear, one of the rear rollers is interconnected with the front one by a long chain. It is possible to adapt the rollers to different cycle sizes.

The surroundings are simulated with VR glasses which provides great freedom in the design of the environment in which the cyclist is riding. It will also be possible to simulate other road users or to connect several simulators to investigate how people interact with each other. The simulator is portable and can therefore be transported to different research sites.

The researchers have compared cycling in the cycling simulator with cycling outdoors on a cycle track in Vallastaden in Linköping, to see to what extent the behaviour in the simulator is similar to cycling in reality. The goal, of course, is to minimize the difference.

“The advantage of using a simulator is that it is possible to control what the researchers expose the test participants to and to be able to systematically vary the factors they are interested in. More parameters can be measured than when cycling normally. Testing things that are not yet available, like novel infrastructure designs or navigation solutions, is also an option. Finally, you can investigate issues that are too dangerous to test in real traffic, for example, how cyclists are affected when a vehicle that overtakes them gets too close to them,” says Katja Kircher.

Katja Kircher demonstrated how it works to cycle in the simulator and what the person who gets on the bike needs to think about. So far, it is not appropriate to try sharp curves or braking.

“I am happy that so many dared to try cycling with VR glasses, and that so many people thought it went so well – even that it was simpler than without. It’s an area that has so far been unexplored,” My Weidel says.

In the cycle simulator, it is also possible to measure factors linked directly to the cyclist, such as power, cadence and heartbeat, direction of gaze and more. Suitable research areas may include investigations from the cyclist’s perspective, regarding infrastructure, road signs and markings, the influence of external forces such as the wind or interaction between different road users. Future goals are to develop the simulator to incorporate cycling on different gradients, that it is possible to brake, and to ride on different types of road surfaces.

VTI is looking forward to engaging in partnerships that deal with the cycle simulator’s development, validation and research and welcomes student work.

Text: Gunilla Rech

Translated by: CBG Konsult & Information AB

Katja Kircher är av typen sv:link, måste vara en sv:page
My Weidel är av typen sv:link, måste vara en sv:page