Driving Simulators: The first snowfalls of the season have begun, and state and local transportation agencies are out shovelling snow all throughout the nation. It’s a difficult job, and snowploughs operators will be on the road all winter long in the worst weather scenarios to help keep our roadways safe for travel.
The challenge with snowploughing is that many drivers haven’t used their ploughs in at least six months, and every year, some are using one for the first time.
Large, complex vehicles with several ploughs and equipment to spread grit or salt on the roadways to improve traction are used as snowploughs trucks. parked or abandoned vehicles, careless drivers, and even wild animals that might try to cross the road can all be hazards on snow-covered roadways.
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Tim McKenzie, a safety manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation, stated, “Last year we suffered a whole lot of snowplough strikes around the state, either by the travelling public or events involving our drivers on unfamiliar roadways” (ODOT).
In this instance, a strike is merely a jargon term for bumping into something and not a labour conflict. In North America, snowploughs crashes are a major issue, and the associated repair costs can be astronomical.
This is a typical issue, McKenzie said. “Usually someone else drives into us or pushes us off the road. A plough strike might cost anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000 for each incidence.
“And just to get the machinery fixed and back on the road. That excludes the time lost in service. Both ploughs and manpower are in short supply. Additionally, we only deploy our ploughs when absolutely necessary.
Driving Simulators Technology Provides A Solution
ODOT sought a means to train its drivers during the off-season in order to improve driver proficiency and lower the number of collisions in winter. To prepare the snowploughs operators for the actual winter weather, the state agency collaborated with a community college in Tillamook, Oregon, to use the facility’s truck driving simulator.
The simulator is employed during the majority of the year to teach commercial truck drivers as part of the college’s CDL curriculum.
“We started looking at methods to get people a little bit more accustomed to the roads and the equipment,” McKenzie added. “We wanted to determine the scope of our preventative training. Driving simulators were mentioned by one of the gentlemen, but we had no idea where to look. When we first started looking, we discovered that Tillamook Bay Community College (TBCC) has its own CDL curriculum, which included a simulator. When I started researching the simulator’s manufacturer, I discovered that they had an optional snowploughs module.
In order to provide some of its snowploughs drivers an opportunity to practise and go through some realistic emergencies without suffering the severe consequences of learning on the job, ODOT rented the simulator from TBCC for the month of October.
Driving Simulators Are Same As A Truck
A bank of computers and three sizable display screens are situated in front of a dashboard, steering wheel, and driver’s seat that closely resemble those found in a commercial truck as part of the simulator system. The technology responds to the student’s inputs while they are in the driver’s seat. To enhance virtual realism, the seat itself even moves and trembles.
According to teacher Jared Britton, an ODOT transportation maintenance coordinator, “it’s a really wonderful tool for our new staff.” “Today we have two pupils from Warrenton, Oregon. They recently joined, thus they are new to ODOT.
“They’ve had some driving experience, but no plough experience. They now have some extra time before winter sets in thanks to this. Although it’s not an ideal setting, it does start to instil some confidence in them, which is preferable to plunging down the snowy slopes for the first time. It’s much less expensive to destroy the simulator!
like travelling on actual snow-covered roads
The instructor can alter the amount of traffic, road hazards, and even animal or human figures that appear to step out in front of the truck as the student is driving over roads that may be straight or winding.
Additionally, the learner can see traffic coming up front and see a rear view on the screen that simulates looking through the truck’s mirrors. The student can manoeuvre the snowplough’s positions much like they would on a real truck using a joystick.
This is when we a little bit push the boat out for them,” Britton said. “We actually urge kids to observe the results of their actions. The simulator allows us to create a wide variety of errors.
“We can make the tyres go flat, run out of petrol, or lose traction on the back wheels. We can really screw things up for them! We currently have a sizable snowstorm in progress, which is another element we may alter. And since many of these men plough through the night, we may transition from day to night. At night, it’s a totally other game!
Driving Simulators Are More Than A Game
Although using a simulator may initially resemble playing a video game, there is a significant data analytics component to the training that enables instructors to assess a driver’s vital emergency skills in a secure setting.
This is a very sophisticated system, McKenzie said. “It uses a camera to capture the driver and the activity, but it also records inputs from the steering wheel, pedals, and other devices. Therefore, you can see when a defect is caused and how long it takes for the driver to respond. You can observe their response if there is an issue with the car. As a result, it’s a terrific teaching tool to review and notice that a motorist needed some time to react to an issue.
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ODOT anticipates that the true benefits will show up over the winter in the form of fewer accidents and issues. The knowledge and abilities developed on the simulator are meant to reduce the number of snowploughs collisions.
If a distinct advantage can be shown, the agency intends to invest in its own simulator. Even if the simulator and the fully equipped trailer it travels in cost up to $250,000, that may still be less than the typical cost of fixing collided-with snowploughs.
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