Requirements of the Client
The GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) project is an £8 million project being carried out by TRL, the global centre for innovation in transport and innovation. The main aims of the project are to understand and identify ways to overcome the technical, legal and societal barriers of implementing automated vehicles (AVs) in an urban environment.
One issue that was highlighted by TRL was that there is a lack of knowledge of how human drivers might respond to the presence of automated vehicles in the driving environment. In order to address this TRL looked to conduct a simulator trial within their life-size driving simulator to investigate driver behaviour and perceptions when encountering AVs in an urban environment.
As a result, TRL required a realistic and accurate virtual 3D environment of the Greenwich Peninsula that participants would drive around during the simulator trials. The virtual environment, close to 2km2 in size, was required to give a level of detail that created the impression of driving the real environment with participants being able to recognise the area and key features within it. Therefore, all aspects of the virtual environment, including the road layouts, signage, traffic lights, street lights, vegetation and buildings had to be modelled with great accuracy.
Agility3 Approach to Development
The first stage of the process involved Agility3 putting together a highly-detailed proposal setting out how the project would proceed not only from a technical perspective but also from a management perspective. Agility3 described to TRL how they would adopt an incremental and collaborative approach to development and management. This included sprints of development with regular staged releases alongside review meetings to ensure all parties are happy with the progress being made and to allow TRL to provide feedback and Agility3 to give advice and suggestions. Having been very happy with the proposal, TRL awarded the contract to Agility3. Subsequently, a project kick-off meeting was held to supplement the proposal and to ensure that there was complete understanding by both parties as to how the project would proceed.
As with all of their work, Agility3 used their expert knowledge and industry leading commercially available tools to develop the virtual environment. In this case, the main tools utilised were the Creator tool from Presagis and 3D Studio Max from Autodesk, which enabled the development of the OpenFlight format 3D model required for integration with the simulator software.
In addition to this, various forms of data were sourced to ensure that a high level of accuracy was achieved. Such data included:
- Vector data to define kerblines, building locations and dimensions.
- LiDAR data to accurately model parts of the Peninsula that were more built recently and were therefore not included in other forms of data.
- Aerial photography to help with measurements and for additional reference against the other data sources.
- On-site photography was conducted to help create the highly realistic visuals of the area within the virtual environment. This was particularly important for the highly recognisable buildings such as the O2 Arena, Blackwall Tunnel and Emirates Cable Car.
Agility3 began by developing a section of the environment small in size but including all the different types of content to be included throughout the whole environment such as vegetation, roads, buildings, traffic lights, street lights and signage. This was then presented to TRL at the first of several review meetings and agreed as a reference for how the various elements would be developed throughout the rest of the environment.
Agility3 then split the rest of environment into a number of development sections which were worked on in incremental phases with development being shown at the subsequent review meetings with TRL. During these review meetings Agility3 would take on feedback from TRL and would also give advice and suggestions in return to ensure that the finished environment would be the best possible quality. This meant that there was a very collaborative approach.
The incremental development phases and subsequent reviews continued until a final delivery was made by Agility3 containing the entire completed environment ready for use within the simulator trials.
Outcome of the Project
The quality of the finished delivery of the Greenwich Peninsula was something Agility3 were very pleased with having met all of the needs of TRL and achieving the very high level of detail and accuracy they were looking for. This was especially pleasing having come across a couple of issues in the development process, such as inconsistencies with data sources. Agility3 were able to work around and overcome these issues whilst still achieving the same detail and accuracy.
TRL were extremely pleased with the delivery and the overall development process that the project went through. The virtual 3D environment of the Greenwich Peninsula exceed expectations and helped them carry out their simulator trials, the results for which can be seen via this link.
Nick Reed, Academy Director at TRL and Project Lead on GATEway said
“Our requirement was for a 3D model of the Greenwich peninsula to use in a driving simulator study as part of the £8m government and industry funded GATEway project on automated vehicles. We were pleased to award this challenging task to Agility3 after they provided a very clear proposal that detailed what they would produce, how they would produce it and clearly articulated how they would manage the process – and all within our time and budgetary constraints. The model produced was of a very high standard, working perfectly in our real-time driving simulator and enabling our trials to be completed on schedule. Throughout the process, Agility3 offered clear and consistent communication on progress and a responsive, collaborative approach producing results that exceeded our expectations. I would not hesitate to work with Agility3 on future simulation projects.”