Examination of the Driving Simulator Validity

Below you will find a short summary of the project. For further information please contact the project managers via the contact button on the right side.

Picture: IAD


Driving simulator studies are often carried out today to develop new driver assistance systems as well as to assess driver behaviour in different situations. These studies have a number of advantages (e.g. lower costs, accurate and easy detection of vehicle and driver data, easy control of the driving environment and traffic). At the same time, however, the validity of the results is regularly questioned and a lack of transferability to real traffic is criticised.


The DFG research project “Bestimmung und Quantifizierung von Gestaltungsmerkmalen einer realitätsnahen Fahrsimulation” (Determination and quantification of design features of a realistic driving simulation) dealt with the validity of the driver’s behaviour and the question to what extent the behaviour of a test person in a driving simulator is comparable to that in a real field test. To clarify this question, the influence of two independent variables on different validity parameters was investigated. On the one hand, design parameters of the driving simulator (horizontal viewing angle, motion simulation) were deliberately varied, on the other hand, selected scenarios were considered.


The project included two phases with empirical research series. Firstly, the validity of the driver’s behaviour in critical situations was examined. Data from field studies already available at the IAD were used as the basis for this. The corresponding tests were simulated in the driving simulator in order to compare the respective measured values and to make statements about the validity.

In a second step, a test section was designed in the Darmstadt area, which contains three selected scenarios and was first traversed in the field in the context of a test subject study. Subsequently, it was reconstructed with the simulator software SILAB, in order to be able to carry out test series under identical conditions in a simulated environment. In this context, specifically selected design parameters of the driving simulator were successively varied in order to analyse their influence on the validity. By comparing the parameters obtained in the field and simulator, it was finally determined which driving simulator design leads to valid results in which scenarios.


A comparison of the empirical results with the theoretically established assumptions shows that the driving simulator validity certainly depends on the influencing variables of the test scenario and design parameters. However, the direction and strength of these influences can neither be derived theoretically nor determined generally by an empirical study, since driver behaviour validity is an extremely complex construct. There are numerous connections between individual influencing variables and aspects of validity. Thus, the empirical study reveals the interesting result that an extension of design parameters does not necessarily lead to a neutral or even positive influence on the validity.


The project “Examination of the Driving Simulator Validity” was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under project number 204086220 from 2012 to 2016.


Zöller, I., Abenroth, B., & Bruder, R. (2017). Driver behaviour validity in driving simulators – Analysis of the moment of initiation of braking at urban intersections. Transportation Research Part F, 61, 120-130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2017.09.008

Zöller, I. (2015). Analyse des Einflusses ausgewählter Gestaltungsparameter einer Fahrsimulation auf die Fahrerverhaltensvalidität. [Dissertation] Technische Universität Darmstadt.

Zöller, I., Mautes, N., Ren, W., & Abendroth, B. (2015). Wissenssammlung für valide Fahrsimulation. ATZ – Automobiltechnische Zeitschrift, 117, 70-73. https://doi.org/10.1007/s35148-015-0406-x

Zöller, I., Betz, A., Mautes, N., Scholz, L., Abendroth, B., Bruder, R., & Winner, H. (2015). Valid representation of a highly dynamic collision avoidance scenario in a driving simulator.Transportation Research Part F, 31, 54-66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2015.03.004

Zöller, I., Mautes, N., Ren, W., & Abendroth, B. (2015). Knowledge Base for Valid Driving Simulation. ATZ Worldwide, 117, 46-49. https://doi.org/10.1007/s38311-015-0173-z

Zöller, I., Diederich, C., Abendroth, B., & Bruder, R. (2013). Fahrsimulatorvalidität – Systematisierung und quantitative Analyse bisheriger Forschungen. Zeitschrift für Arbeitswissenschaft, 68(4), 197-206. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03374409

Zöller, I., Abendroth, B., & Bruder, R. (2013). Fahrsimulatoren als valide Untersuchungsumgebung?- Kritische Analyse bisheriger Forschungen. In: 59. GfA-Frühjahrskongress, 27. Februar – 01. März 2013, Krefeld.