Bunkyo University
Transport System Laboratory,
Department of Information Society,
Faculty of Information and Communications

Simulation Technology Used for Evaluating Traffic-related Measures and effects of New Technologies Building Up Platform That Can Be Used for Experiments at Low Cost Using UC-win/Road DS

Bunkyo University
Transport System Laboratory,
Department of Information Society,
Faculty of Information and Communications
URL: http://open.shonan.bunkyo.ac.jp/~tslab/
Location: Chigasaki-shi, Kanagawa
Research contents: Research on transport systemsthat combine information systems and human engineering to solve regional and traffic challenges

Dr. Shuichi Matsumoto, Associate Professor,
Department of Information Society,
Faculty of Information and Communications,
Bunkyo University

"(In repeating discussions with FORUM8 several years ago,) we had a strong desire to develop a platform on which everyone can use simulation technology at low cost, or such a driving simulator (DS) as well."

When Associate Professor Shuichi Matsumoto, Ph.D., Department of Information Society, Faculty of Information and Communications, Bunkyo University was working in another university, a large DS was utilized there. Not only the initial cost of developing and installing DS, but also the annual running cost were very expensive. However, researchers who can use such costly equipment are limited. This made him have a sense of crisis that the circle of people who think about traffic measures in the future using simulation might not spread as he looks back.

In this sense, it is very important that experiments can be conducted at low cost if there are software like FORUM8's three-dimensional (3D) real-time VR "UC-win/Road", DS that is based on it with plural screens, and a little bit high-spec personal computer, says Dr. Matsumoto. He says, "Personally, I hope such simulation technology becomes available to a wide range of researchers and practitioners." He explains his ideas that he has long been nursing through his experiences, hoping that his efforts will be of help.

Associate Professor Matsumoto has been exploring the best construction of DS to meet the needs mentioned above since more than 6 years ago. 5 years ago, when he was working in Keio University, he introduced UC-win/Road for the first time as part of it. He then introduced as a UC-win/Road DS system on moving into Bunkyo University.

 The Country's First Faculty of Informatics Focuses on Connection of ICT and Society

"Department of Information Society, Faculty of Information and Communications (of Bunkyo University) that I belong to is a new department established 3 years ago."

Associate Professor Matsumoto illustrated 1) "Pokemon Go" and the associated social problems such as traffic accidents and midnight wandering caused by excessive enthusiasm about it, 2) "automated driving", with which a wide range of people involved in the fields of industry, government and academia compete fiercely for technology development, and legislation for that. He draws a part of the approach unique to the department, that is, from the greatness of influences information and communication technology (ICT) has on various aspects of the society, they pay attention to the connection between ICT and the society to consider the solution before problems are revealed.

School building that accommodates
Transport System Laboratory. It is unified
with brick, similar to the campus.
Objects are placed here and there in the
open squares throughout the campus.

Known as "the country's first faculty of informatics", Bunkyo University's Faculty of Information and Communications consists of the Department of Information Systems, Department of Information Society, and Department of Media and Communications. The Department of Information Society holds up the philosophy to "understand problems of modern society, and propose new life and new activities of enterprises", having two main areas of "communication strategy" to understand the "present" of people and business corporations and to aim at creation of new business by one's own idea, and "project management" to train the leaders who realize ample life and corporate activities by utilizing IT.

Among these, he attaches importance to experiments or studies using DS on element technologies or social problems related to transportation including automated driving technologies and driving support systems. In addition, the Department has faculties with diverse expertise required for information society.

Establishment of Bunkyo University Foundation dates back to 1927, when Rissho kindergarten and Rissho Women's School for Needlework were established on a mission of female education. It was 1966 when Rissho Women's University, predecessor of the present Bunkyo University, was founded in Koshigaya campus, located in Koshigaya City, Saitama Prefecture. In 1976, the University was renamed Bunkyo University. In the next year of 1977, it shifted to coeducation. In 1980, the Faculty of Information and Communications was established. In 1985, the Shonan campus was opened, where the Faculty of Information and Communications was transferred. In 2005, the Graduate School of Information and Communications was established in the Graduate Schools of the University. In 2014, Department of Information Society was added to Faculty of Information and Communications.

The University presently consists of 7 Faculties including Faculty of Education (2 educational courses), Faculty of Human Sciences (3 Departments), Faculty of Language and Literature (4 Departments, with one of which established in April 2017), Faculty of Information and Communications (3 Departments), Faculty of International Studies (2 Departments), Faculty of Health and Nutrition (1 Department), and Faculty of Business Administration, and Graduate Schools (5 Schools), Special Postgraduate Course, and Foreign Student Department. Nearly 9,000 students including undergraduate and graduate students (as of 2016 fiscal year) are learning in 2 campuses of Koshigaya and Shonan.

 Lineage of Researches through Transport System Laboratory

Associate Professor Matsumoto moved here from Keio University in 2014 when Department of Information Society was established in Faculty of Information and Communications. At the same time, he established "Transport System Laboratory (Matsumoto Lab)". Their activities there include evaluation of traffic-related measures and effects evaluation in introducing new technologies, making full use of the traffic flow simulator, DS, and the cycling simulator.

Originally, he belonged to the Laboratory of System Engineering throughout his career in Faculty of Science and Technology and Graduate School of Science and Technology of Keio University. Later, he moved to Research Institute, Kochi University of Technology as Research Associate (Assistant Professor), then came back to Keio University, working as Project Assistant Professor of Keio Advanced Research Centers, and subsequently Assistant Professor of Faculty of Science and Technology. In 2012 when he moved to Faculty of Science and Technology, he established "Transport System Laboratory" for considering System Engineering that specializes in transportation. Its research stance is taken over to the Laboratory established in Bunkyo University with its name.

On the other hand, Associate Professor Matsumoto has been engaged in the activities outside the university on ITS (intelligent transport systems) for many years as an ITS specialist. He is proud of abundant knowledge obtained through his efforts such as the Practical Study Special Subcommittee on ITS (Japan Society of Civil Engineers), Regional ITS of Kochi, Nagasaki EV®ITS Project, and Shizuoka ITS Council.

 Introducing UC-win/Road in aiming at advancement of simulation

"Originally we were making research using Traffic Flow Simulator as a main tool. However, as just using this did not allow obtaining data on minute activities of drivers or (vehicle) behavior, we reached conclusion that we should make research by using traffic flow simulator and DS for different tasks."

First of all, they were utilizing traffic flow simulation for such researches that take account of the whole traffic flow such as signal control. However, when it comes to the problems including changes in the activities of drivers when they receive information, there are some restrictions in using only this. There have been more and more cases that they had to depend upon experiments using DS since 10-odd years. There were some drawbacks to DS used at that time, though, which was very large on scale. For example, it was not only expensive but also unable to customize by themselves.

In search for such software that allows simulation with their own arrangement more easily by trying various products, they reached UC-win/Road, which looked like something they could use in conformity with their needs. When he was going to start Transport System Laboratory, he purchased UC-win/Road through Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, which he was working on at that time. In addition, 3 years ago when he moved to Bunkyo University and established Transport System Laboratory, he introduced it in the form of UC-win/Road DS system.

"Since they offer the open source to a certain degree, we can customize (creation of scenario, road design, and so on) as we want. That's where we were happy."

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Effects of mitigating congestion by providing information about the acceleration and
speed reduction of the Pre-preceding Vehicle in the Sag section

 Research Subjects to be Widened by Utilizing DS Based on UC-win/Road

The Lab advocates effective utilization of simulation technology as its characteristics. It has been widening its range of activities from traffic flow simulator to DS, and in recent years to the cycling simulator.

For example, as part of researches on the requirements of information that serves as elements of automated driving technology or driver assistance technology, they searched for "what allows the drivers to change their driving behavior without difficulty, having a positive influence on the traffic flow" using DS. Moreover, regarding the influence that traffic measures have on bicycle users, they conducted experiments using the cycling simulator. For the latter, they prepared different types of bikes such as a cross bike and a city cycle (lady's cycle), and a children's bicycle, taking account of response to evaluation on bicycle traffic in the environment close to the actual world where plural types of bicycles travel.

What is remarkable is that they are doing many things originally by themselves, including creation of VR spaces for simulation and installment of bicycles to use in experiments. They say that sometimes people in other universities having exchanges with them get surprised, saying "Did you make it?"

One of the major researches of Associate Professor Matsumoto and others utilizing DS is the examination of influences that the information about acceleration and speed reduction of Pre-preceding Vehicle has on the following vehicles. This is what they have been working on since about 10 years ago in consideration of development of cooperative ITS. By presenting information that rather than the car ahead, but the second car ahead, has started or started to reduce speed, this intends to lead to environmentally friendly start, or driving behavior or vehicle behavior that does not worsen traffic congestion. He positions it as the hottest theme recently.

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Simulation of effects of giving a sense of reducing speed to the driver using an optical illusion.

Moreover, as an approach to reducing congestion at the Sag section, which is considered to occupy 60% of the cause of congestion on expressways, he paid attention to use of an optical illusion of giving a sense of reducing speed to the driver. He examined the effects to be obtained from specially devised painting on the side of the expressway in exploring cheaper and efficient countermeasures. Through experiments using DS, improvement in the traffic flow rate by applying the measure is verified.

Furthermore, last year he built up the cycling simulator he had been planning of after a great deal of trial and error. He has been trying to digitize conflict or mutual concessions between the bicycle and automobile as well as travelling performance of bicycles quantitatively.

Click to enlarge the image.
Evaluation on bicycle traffic by simulating the environment
close to the actual world where plural types of bicycles travel.

 New Possibilities Brought About by DS and Future Development

"What is important first is that it (UC-win/Road) is very easy software to use. (In this sense) I am very much satisfied to have come across excellent software."

Additionally, mentioning that he and his colleagues often consult FORUM8 engineers for unprecedented matters, he evaluates that this allows building up deep relation of trust through close communications as well as foundation for trying something new. He is hoping for possibilities of collaboration that contribute to researches and product development of both.

Since they introduced UC-win/Road DS, there have also been increased cases of receiving requests from other universities to study jointly on the knowhow of using DS. With such a case as a start, joint researches are increasing with diverse universities.

For the future development, Associate Professor Matsumoto wants to use plural units of DS at the same time if possible and see interaction between the drivers of the two cars in front and behind, with its influences on traffic.

"Efforts to create efficient traffic flow by linking vehicles has become hot topic for discussion recently."

To realize this, it is necessary to decide requirements for this, and it is required to seriously consider "what kind of information should be provided to help drivers to drive easily" and "to what extent the traffic flow gets improved by that", as he mentions. He states that the key to its success is effective utilization of the latest ICT including simulation technology.

Written by Takashi Ikeno
(Up&Coming '17 Spring Issue)