A rear view of the Scotsim truck simulator.
© John G. Fender 2011
Extensively in both civil and military aviation, simulators have become a valuable tool in the training of pilots both on aircraft types and in dealing with all sorts of situations a pilots may find themselves in. Simulators are now being used in driver training and truck simulators are finding a role in improving the skills of drivers.
One of the latest driving simulators is operated by Scotsim and is a Scottish Executive initiative with some £3 million of funding coming from the Scottish Road Haulage Modernisation fund.
The use of truck and bus simulators will become more widespread in the future as forthcoming EU legislation is likely to require training on simulators to be provided for drivers.
The advantage of using a simulator lies in the fact that drivers are faced with "real world" situations that can both be reviewed and recreated. Scenarios can have many factors changed, such as road conditions, weather, and whether is daytime or night time. For example, night driving training can be given during a normal working day.
How a driver operates a vehicle can be assessed and many different factors can be analysed, for example, how a driver reacts to weather conditions, traffic conditions or how the vehicle is positioned in relation to the road and other vehicles. The reactions of drivers can be monitored and assessed and any problem areas can be addressed with training given to overcome the problems identified. This all helps in developing driver's skills with the aim of improving safety.
Another objective of driving simulator training is to improve fuel economy by enabling drivers to learn fuel efficient driving principles and these coupled with vehicle telematics can deliver significant savings for vehicle operators.
The simulators used are designed and built by Thales, with both a fixed version and mobile version available. The simulators provide an "in cab" environment for the driver and are based on a Renault truck. The controls are the same and the system provides the driver with the same feedback that the driver would normally experience in a real vehicle. Most types of vehicle can be simulated from rigid trucks to articulated vehicles. For example, the speedometer works realistically as do the other gauges.
Dashboard warning lights are also operational and the driver also experiences the same sounds as he would in a real vehicle. The use of detailed display, featuring Scottish towns and landmarks gives a feeling of driving in the "real world" and even the mirrors have special displays the accurately reflect real driving. The use of motion platforms allows the driver to experience acceleration, braking and other vehicle movements, again similar to the real thing.
The simulator used by Scotsim is the first of is kind in Scotland and there is currently only one other in the UK. It has a separate control room from where the instructor can monitor the driver's performance and set up various scenarios or add in the unexpected to the exercise. After a session, there is a dedicated room for reviewing the driver's performance and this enables use of the simulator to be maximised be enabling another driver to undergo training whilst the first one is debriefed on his session.
On entering the simulator, the level of realism is remarkable and when driving the vehicle, there is little difference between the simulator and the real thing other than less traffic on the road. The computer generated graphics projected onto the screens too provide the "world" have a remarkable level of detail. When "driving" the simulator provides the driver with the same feedback that would be experienced with a real truck. When braking, for example, you can feel the deceleration.
In the control room, the trainer has three screens that show what the driver sees and there is also another screen that details how the driver is driving. A further screen shows the driver via a CCTV camera. This enables the trainer to monitor the training session closely. The trainer can also make adjustments to the exercise, for example, activating the engine overheating warning light.
The Scottish Region would like to thank David McClelland and John McKendry, Training Manager for explaining the details of the project and enabling members to see the simulator in operation. Further details are available on the Scotsim website, www.scotsim.co.uk.
Report by John Fender.
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