User Introduction Vol. 86
Korea user special feature(2)
Transportation Management LAB., Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University

From Vehicle behavior to Pedestrian Behavior Simulations, with Further Development in Mind: Developing Unique Algorithms Through a Joint Project among Industry, University, and Laboratory, and Focusing on the Possibility of UC-win/Road as a Visualization Tool

Let us introduce one more Korean user this time.

Last year, we held "The 3rd International VR Symposium" (Day 2 of "FORUM8 Design Festival 2009 - 3 Days", November 18-20, 2009), where the "World 16" members made presentations on their research themes. Among them, Mr. Taro Narahara (Doctor of Design Student, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University) gave a lecture on his research, in which he connected agent-based crowd simulation with UC-win/Road in real time and investigated their interaction.

On the other hand, the Korean user we are introducing now is Transportation Management LAB., which performs research on transportation in GSES:Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University.

The Lab approaches various issues in the transportation field from such aspects as ITS, transport operation, and road safety. As a part of them, the Lab modeled the behaviors of various pedestrians from a point of transportation management with the transfer center in Seoul city as an example, developing a simulator based on these models was advanced.

Next, when the lab members were trying to find out how to visualize the output, Professor Lee Young-Ihn came to know about UC-win/Road at Korean ITS conference in the autumn of 2009. He paid attention to its availability. Later, the Lab decided to introduce UC-win/Road in a short time to use it as a visualization tool.

We interviewed Ms. Han Myung-Joo, Researcher at the Lab and Mr. Kim Hyung-Bum, who majors in transportation management. They have been taking part in the project for developing this pedestrian simulator from the beginning, and are also leading figures to take charge of examining introduction of UC-win/Road with Prof. Lee Young-Ihn, and its subsequent use.

Positioning of GSES and the Transportation Management LAB

Seoul National University was founded in 1946 as the first national university in Korea in a framework of postwar new education. It boasts of high evaluation worldwide, not to mention as the domestic leader of high education in Korea.

According to the Web site of the University, there are 16 colleges, 1 graduate school, and 9 professional schools (graduate schools of professions) established in its largest campus in Seoul (as of Oct. 1st, 2009, for all the figures about the University). The 16 colleges hold 84 departments and 98 majors.

3,165 full-time faculty staff members, 15,976 undergraduate students, and 10,054 graduate students are on the register roll. Among them, 1,982 undergraduate students, 979 graduate students, i.e. 2,961 in all are from foreign countries.

In contrast, it was 1973 that GSES (Graduate School of Environmental Studies) was founded. Along with rapid economic development in Korea, problems caused by industrialization or urbanization were actualized. It was considered an urgent task in those days to train the experts in the field of environmental research. Therefore, GSES was positioned as a place to train the experts who were capable of building up logical synthesis about the environment.

The majors of GSES comprise environmental planning and landscape architecture. The former is subdivided into urban / regional planning, transportation management, and environmental management; while the latter into landscape architecture and urban design. Besides, special programs are provided with regard to urban, regional, and environmental policies.

The transportation management major, which we focus on here, performs research on methodology for the theoretical systems or analysis about transportation planning, transportation policies, traffic economy, public transport, transportation engineering, ITS, and so on. In addition, case analysis and practical training are performed in order to solve transportation problems.

In Transportation Management LAB., Professor Lee Young-Ihn, one of the 4 faculty members of the Transportation Management Major who specializes in ITS, transport operation, road safety and so on teaches students. Prior to the development of a pedestrian simulator, the Lab also worked on developing a monitoring system for air contamination affected by acceleration and deceleration of vehicles (2006) and so on.

Developing a Pedestrian Simulator for Analyzing the Operation of the Transfer Center

"(In Transportation Management LAB.,) so far we have performed research mainly on the behaviors of vehicles, such as the vehicular gap with the vehicle ahead or lane-changing", says Ms. Han Myung-Joo. "Originally, it was rather difficult to make simulations of pedestrian behavior an object of analysis because there are more alternatives of travelling directions compared with the behavior pattern of vehicles that conforms with a specific rule, and that the behavior patterns vary complicatedly."

On the other hand, partly because of the fear of potential terrorism, there is a rise in social interest in the pedestrian safety in particular in recent years.

What's more, system construction for effective transfer that enables public transportation to absorb the demand of using private cars was considered the key to the solution of mitigating such problems as traffic congestion in large cities. On the contrary, the existing design standard for the transfer center was by no means satisfactory. Therefore, when constructing the transfer center, it was actually difficult to design it so that the time for transfers should be shortened and also to properly evaluate the effect.

Therefore, when construction of a new transfer center was planned, it was required first to analyze the characteristics of pedestrian behavior in order to improve its operational plan and the evaluation capability for it. Against this backdrop, the joint project among industry, university, and laboratory started, which has reached 4th year this year, according to her.

The development of a pedestrian simulator that models individual pedestrian behavior and make a microscopic analysis based on the models was positioned as the target of the project.

In modeling pedestrian behavior, firstly pedestrian attributes were set up as follows: sex, age (with several age groups), other characteristics (degree of haste), packages (no baggage, normal baggage, backpack, or luggage), and physical disability (whether the person is a mobility impaired or not, and if so, the degree of disadvantage).

Next, such items are considered as what kind of activities pedestrians do when they enter the transfer center, which routes they select, and how they move when there are other person in front of them.

For example, the following case was included: 'when an obstacle of what kind appears in the visual field of a pedestrian, how does he or she avoid it considering the relationship with the person going ahead?' In this case, they created an algorithm of calculating the walking speed of the people in front or around to change the moving direction to avoid hitting.

In other words, through developing these algorithms, they obtained in real time not only the pedestrian's point view such as 'how many people he or she avoided while travelling to the destination', or the walking speed during that time, but also information on facilities such as average time of using facilities, average waiting time, and length of the queue that occurs. The result of simulation also brought about various types of information such as simulation time, the number of pedestrians that occurred, traveling distance / time / route / average speed of pedestrians.

Using the simulation software that had been developed, she illustrated Sadang Station that lies in Seoul City where Subway Lines 2 and 4 intersect. She explained the pedestrian behavior at some places ranging from the ground sidewalk to the basement of the station building, the platform of the Line 2 on the 2nd basement, and the platform of the Line 4 on the 5th basement. To introduce just a few aspects of its advancement, she mentioned that by the conventional method, representation of the density of people itself was only based on the average value, while the new method enabled to evaluate the density that varies depending on whether the train is present or not in real time.

Linking a Pedestrian simulator with UC-win/Road

It is one of the important elements how to visualize the output of the simulator. However, it was too difficult to develop to that extent by themselves in the Lab. In the autumn last year, just when they were trying to find out how to cope with that part, Prof. Lee Young-Ihn attended Korean ITS conference. Looking at UC-win/Road that was exhibited at the site, he came up with an idea of using it as a visualization tool. He hurriedly called the members of the Lab and started examining it. Within a very short time, it was decided to introduce UC-win/Road.

As to the space where the pedestrians act, CAD data was converted into 3DS files, which were imported to UC-win/Road. Besides, the Lab developed a function of converting data when the pedestrian movements etc. are connected from the calculation part of the simulator to UC-win/Road through Micro Simulation Player.

At present, the Lab is using UC-win/Road not only for creating three-dimensional (3D) representation of pedestrian behavior at the above-mentioned transfer center but also for research on disaster evacuation simulations.

Before UC-win/Road was introduced, the Lab staff had felt the limits of representation of pedestrian behavior in 2D. A tool for visualization allowing precise reproduction in 3D was required. "In this sense, it is significant that 3DS files could be read in with ease," as Ms. Han Myung-Joo looks back.

"In doing so, the CAD layers can be used as they are, which makes it easy to handle. And functions such as of color change and of grouping pedestrians on each floor can be applied as they are, too", as Mr. Kim Hyung-Bum enumerated the advantages.

He has an idea of using UC-win/Road for working on large-scale movement of people such as Yeosu EXPO to be held in 2012, where more than 100,000 people are expected to come.

Ms. Han Myung-Joo says further that in the Lab, they are advancing research on evaluation such as "in what point the highway is superior to the railroad in comparison" or the effects of signal systems. "(With the use of UC-win/Road in such cases in mind), I expect that the functions for pedestrian simulators will be enhanced, e.g. clicking a pedestrian model will display its attribute".

We are most grateful to everyone involved for spending time with us for the interview.

Prof. Lee Young-Ihn, Transportation Management LAB., Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University

Han Myung-Joo, Doctoral course, Transportation Management LAB., Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University

Kim Hyung-Bum, Master's course, Transportation Management LAB., Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University

Building of Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University

Conference room of the Transportation Management LAB

The result of pedestrian simulation in the station

The result of pedestrian simulation on the road around the station entrance

The result of pedestrian simulation in a commercial facility around the station entrance
Interviewed by:
FORUM8 representative Seoul office
Email: yuk@forum8.com