Research spotlight

Driving simulator

Programme for Simulation Innovation

Launched in 2013, the Programme for Simulation and Innovation has seen Professor Jie Xu from the School of Computing at the University of Leeds collaborate with some of the country’s leading academics, Jaguar Land Rover and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop the capability of the UK’s virtual simulation industry. 

What makes this project unique?

This is a five-year research programme funded jointly by Jaguar Land Rover and the EPSRC. It is part of the first phase of a 20-year strategic project.

The £10 million virtual engineering research programme – currently one of the UK’s largest EPSRC-funded research and development projects – sees this collaboration between industry and academia developing new, world-class simulation tools for use by manufacturers. 

Who’s involved?

The team involved in giving the UK the opportunity to take a global lead in virtual simulation technology includes:

  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Cambridge
  • The University of Warwick
  • The University of Sheffield
  • The University of Manchester.

What’s the Leeds research team up to?

The Leeds team led by Professor Jie XU is involved in the analysis of the vehicle as a complex system. This includes developing methods to enable a comprehensive analysis of the vehicle interface complexity at vehicle to system and component levels. The team is also examining emergent behaviour within such systems.

On the programme, the team at Leeds collaborates with the Institute for Transport Studies and use the Leeds Driving Simulator looking at delivering a realistic driving and passenger experience in a fully digitally defined environment to provide feedback through the vehicle design process.

What’s the point?

By giving engineers a more realistic idea of what a design might achieve, as well as giving them access to more powerful computers, will mean increased virtual engineering resulting in:

  • faster delivery of more complex new vehicle programmes
  • cost savings in product development as there will be less reliance on physical prototypes 
  • environmental benefits as fewer prototypes will need to be driven and tested in the real world.

‘The challenge and motivation is the speed and cost. It used to take about seven years from design and concept to manufacture, which is a very long time. Currently it’s probably down to four years but we’re aiming to get it to under two years. The goal posts change all the time though due to complexity, testing and market influences. Each time a new car is released manufacturers want to match every feature. It can cost tens of thousands if not millions of pounds per feature. Virtual testing will save thousands of pounds multiple times.’ David McKee, Project Manager, University of Leeds

And, of course, research from the project feeds into teaching in the School of Computing. The Operating Systems module covers more recent advances in distributed systems such as high performance computing (HPC) and real-time operating systems.

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