Truck companies are always looking for ways to improve safety, and virtual reality (VR) is their latest tool to do so. VR training simulations are being introduced by companies such as UPS as part of their new driver safety exercises.
Trainee drivers are able to identify hazards such as pedestrians, oncoming traffic and parked cars while wearing a 360-degree view VR headset. The hope is that not only will this sharpen drivers’ road skills, but will also help attract more candidates to apply for driver vacancies.
Other VR training can improve safety off the road too – honing the skills required by drivers loading and unloading hazardous liquid gases, for example. Drivers are able to build muscle memory of these procedures, gaining confidence and experience more rapidly than if using real machinery.
VR technology also simulates ‘x-ray’ vision by overlaying graphics onto real world situations, meaning learner drivers are able to see through pipes and get a conceptual understanding of how gases flow through them.
Research is currently underway to compare the skills, performance and safety records of new drivers, comparing those who have received VR training against those with traditional training. It is expected that processes will be accelerated – helping plug the commercial driver shortfall.
VR means companies can deliver consistent training to all drivers, regardless of where they are based. However, one sticking point for fleets is the investment in such technologies. The price of VR equipment has already started coming down, but it will have to reduce significantly if it is to prove cost effective and appeal to a wider audience.
There is also the issue that VR can give some people motion sickness.
Time will tell whether VR technologies do what they promise and reduce training times and improve safety. And if it does take off, let’s hope the next generation of recruits don’t suffer from VR-related motion sickness.