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Honda, Ohio State open $1.3M driving simulator

Andew Collins / For the Lantern

Questions on how different distractions affect drivers might soon get answers at Ohio State.

The OSU Office of Research and Honda R&D Americas, Inc. opened the new $1.3 million OSU Driving Simulation Laboratory Thursday morning. The lab was designed to help researchers learn more about the distractions drivers face while driving and ways to prevent distraction on the road.
The Kinnear Road lab includes driver simulators that give a real driving experience in a real Honda car.
Jan Weisenberger, OSU senior associate vice president for OSU’s Office of Research, said studying drivers’ behaviors in a simulated driving environment holds many advantages for researchers.
“It will allow scientists to monitor people’s heart rate, eye movement and stress levels while they are in a realistic driving environment,” Weisenberger said. “University researchers can study attention, cognition, stress and workload, and also special populations like teenagers.”
OSU President E. Gordon Gee said he’s very excited and proud about the partnership with Honda to build the lab and believes it will create opportunities for the campus in the future.
“This particular program is going to make yet another symbolic signal that research in the future, business in the future, collaboration in the future and the ability to make a difference is going to occur right here on this campus with these kinds of partnerships,” Gee said.
Steven Feit, chief engineer at Honda R&D Americas, said Honda is also looking forward to working with OSU and doing research studies in the lab.  
“Honda is very excited about this new partnership with Ohio State, and we can’t wait to get started in some of our research,” Feit said.
Part of the lab’s opening ceremony was to demonstrate the driver simulators and give people a better understanding of the lab and its inner workings. Weisenberger said she thought the demonstration went well and that it was a success overall.
“The demonstration went great,” she said. “People had the opportunity to sit in the simulators and experience how it feels to drive in different situations. President Gee also sat in one.”
The lab will benefit the university and Honda R&D Americas equally, said Frank Paluch, senior vice president of Honda R&D Americas, as the lab will help Honda develop safer and more intuitive cars.
“This new simulator will be a new arm of safety research capabilities,” Paluch said. “To gain a deeper understanding of our customers, and to advance our ability to create even more safe, smart, intuitive Honda and Acura, and that’s why we have invested our time and money into this simulator.”  
Although the lab isn’t open to the public and OSU students yet, Weisenberger said she thinks there will be tours available to OSU students after fully testing the lab.
“It’s not immediately open, but we eventually want students to come in and learn more about the technology and research methods our simulation lab provides,” she said.  

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