Virtual Reality as a Tool to Evaluate Pedestrian Safety

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National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence


Virtual reality (VR) promises to be an effective tool to evaluate changes to the built environment that could improve safety for pedestrians. However, in order to draw actionable conclusions from VR, it is important to understand the degree to which pedestrians’ perceptions and behaviors match across real and virtual environments. In this study, participants experienced equivalent real and virtual environments and performed similar tasks in each. Tasks included the intention to cross an intersection, the estimation of the speed and distance of an approaching vehicle, and the perceived safety and risk of crossing a road. Results showed no statistical difference between the real and virtual environments for participants’ intention to cross, estimation of distances, and perceptions of safety and risk. Statistically significant differences between real and virtual environments were observed in the estimation of speed and measures of presence. These results indicate that at lower vehicle speeds (25 mph and lower) VR can be used as tool to evaluate pedestrian safety in built environments.



virtual reality, pedestrian safety, roadway design, transportation safety