Simulated Traffic (Vissim) Visualization

Simulating traffic is an important part of transportation planning and design. Utilizing set parameters such as current and projected traffic counts, number of lanes, length of lane tapers, traffic signal timing and more, engineers can use software such as Vissim, Aimsun, Synchro and more to make simulated traffic models that can predict how various designs may preform with future traffic.

While most traffic simulation software includes visualization abilities, they are typically limited in ability, features and quality. Some present only dot or point representations of vehicles and others top down, 2D representations of vehicles. More recently, some software, including Vissim, allow 3D vehicles as well as the importing of 3D buildings and other existing and design features.

For some projects, the built-in visualization capabilities of simulated traffic software are enough to communicate the simulation or design but often, engineering firms and agencies need a more realistic representation of projects with simulated traffic. We can work directly with these project teams to represent the project design, existing context and simulated traffic in a realistic 3D world to develop flythrough animations or interactive visualization.


Previous solutions to visualize simulated traffic data have typically focused on fully rendered animations in 3ds Max. While these methods worked for 3ds Max animation and rendering, they were inefficient for the real-time, interactive visualization that we focus on. For example, to get a file from Vissim to Unity 3D, the data had to be exported from Vissim as an .fzp file, imported into 3ds Max via the Civil View plugin, data cleaned up in and exported from 3ds Max as a .fbx file (with animation) and then imported into Unity 3D. Not only was this process time consuming and cumbersome, but the result would be large files that were nearly impossible to manage in Unity from both file size and processing stand points.

Because of this and the consistent requests by clients to represent Vissim or other simulated data in our 3D visualization, we attempted- and ultimately succeeded- to make a proprietary workflow to bring simulation files directly into real-time game engines.

There were a variety of challenges we needed to overcome to create this new process including:

Play Video
  • Parsing the .fzp file
  • Culling unnecessary vehicles not relevant to the project
  • Geolocating and rotating the data into the correct location
  • Representing each point with the correct type and size of vehicle
  • Matching and tracking the elevated data to the existing and proposed 3D models
  • Removing frames of animation as necessary for smoother real-time performance
  • Creating a slider to speed up or slow down the animation in real-time
  • Integration with menu including switching between our smart traffic system and simulated traffic
  • NEW: Textured vehicles and rotating tires
  • And more

Currently we’ve utilized this workflow for data from Vissim and Aimsun imported into Unity 3D as untextured vehicles but in the coming months we will develop:

  • Integration into Unreal Engine (UE4)
  • Testing with Synchro and Corsim data

There are ultimately two main challenges that our team at Civil FX can help traffic simulation teams with to accurately visualize the simulated data. The first is to import and represent the data in a real-time game engine for visualization flexibility as described previous.

The second- and perhaps equally as important- challenge is to build the 3D world that the cars reside in. Without the existing context (buildings, bridges, signs, lights…) and proposed project design modeled in 3D, it is difficult to tell the full story of the project. Our artists specialize in building realistic worlds that can properly put the simulated traffic in the right context.  The combination of a realistic 3D environment and simulated traffic data is perhaps the most realistic representation of a proposed project currently available.

For the most effective visualization, we can take existing, future- build condition and future- no build condition data and represent each in the visualization. If there are multiple alternatives or phases, those can also be represented to quickly show how these changes could potentially impact the project.

For a recent Department of Transportation project, we visualized existing, future- build condition and future- no build condition data for a proposed project. Not only did this help tell the story of why the project was needed from a mobility standpoint, but utilizing the interactive version of the project at the public meeting, the project team were able to show specific areas of the project in existing, future or no-build scenarios to specific individuals. Showing that the future no-build simulated traffic would likely be unmanageable with long wait times and queues, the project managers were able to turn project opponents into project advocates and help justify the proposed cost to build the project.

We can create simulated traffic visualization for your project as a 3D animation or interactive application or both. The animation will be delivered as a video file (.mp4) while the interactive application will be delivered as a zipped folder with a .exe file. For small projects such as roundabouts and intersections, we can create web applications that can be embedded directly into web pages.

For more information on how Civil FX can bring your simulated traffic to life with 3D visualization, email or call 702-329-9688. We can also set up a Skype meeting for real-time demonstrations of the technology and to answer any other questions you may have.

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