Deakin University says it is using virtual reality (VR) to help young drivers become empathetic when interacting with other motorists, especially those operating heavy vehicles.
The university says the project simulates common – and dangerous – scenarios, giving young drivers a literal reality check of how their actions may contribute directly to road accidents.
“This project is a fantastic opportunity to continue to explore the role that virtual reality can play in supporting a deeper understanding and empathy of what it is like to drive a heavy vehicle on our roads,” Project Lead and Director of Deakin’s CADET Virtual Reality Lab Professor Ben Horan, says.
“And why it is so important for passenger vehicles to drive safely when interacting with heavy vehicles,” he adds.
Deakin notes as more Victorian motorists return to driving post-COVID lockdowns, they may be lacking awareness when sharing the road with larger vehicles.
It says there is a need to educate road users about the inherent safety considerations when sharing the road with heavy vehicles.
“Our heavy vehicle drivers do a terrific job to stay safe on the road,” Chris Wilks, Linfox Group Manager for Safety, Health, and Wellbeing, says.
“When you consider that most other road users don’t have experience driving a truck, it’s not surprising that some motorists find themselves in dangerous situations,” he adds.
He says a good example of this is when a motorist merges in front of a truck, leaving them with little time to stop safely. This forces the driver to brake suddenly and to have to quickly determine how to avoid having an accident.
“Overtaking and sitting in a driver’s blind-spot on a multi-lane road when the truck needs to merge is another example of motorists not appreciating the differences between a car and truck,” Chris says.
Deakin University says the project is funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative supported by the federal government. It says it includes a range of partners including Linfox Logistics and the Transport Accident Commission.
Professor Horan says many young drivers are shocked at their lack of awareness after experiencing the simulated scenarios, realising just how risky their inexperience can be.
“Many of us don’t fully understand the challenges from a heavy vehicle perspective, and it is very difficult to replicate it in the real world,” Professor Ben says.
Deakin University says its program received a funding boost late last year as the latest stage of the project continues from the earlier pilot project and will include the development of an extended range of VR experiences that are applicable across Australia.
It adds that partnerships with education providers will also be implemented to deliver the VR experience to young drivers in different parts of the country.
For more information on Deakin University, click here.