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International delivery company United Parcel Service (UPS) is shifting from touchscreens to virtual reality headsets to train its drivers.
In a move aimed at making driver training more realistic, UPS has introduced VR modules to create realistic 3D representations of streets and road hazards. Setting a trend that could be extended to training drivers in general – and thus lowering training costs – the training program is scheduled to start in September 2017.
Initially, the new VR-based training is to be rolled out at its nine Integrad training facilities. According to the company, some 9000 drivers have been successfully trained at the Integrad facilities since they first opened in 2007.
The training comprises lessons in driving UPS delivery trucks in a simulation of a city and identification of road hazards. However, until now the training program has used conventional flat touch screens.The new program has chosen Virtual Reality headsets because of their greater realism in general and their ability to recreate true 3D in particular.
In the road hazard modules, students are required to identify (verbally) various types of hazards, including parked and mobile vehicles and pedestrians. They are also required to turn their heads, to identify hazards coming the sides and even behind, simulating real driving situations.
According to UPS chief information and engineering officer, Juan Perez: “Virtual Reality offers a big technological leap in the realm of driver safety training. VR creates a hyper-realistic streetscape that will dazzle even the youngest of our drivers whose previous exposure to the technology was through video games.”
Although the program is initially limited to training package delivery truck drivers, UPS is considering extending the program to the training of tractor trailer (articulated lorry) drivers too. They are also looking into the possibility of using Augmented Reality, along with pure VR, in the training program.
The software training modules and headset hardware and being supplied by HTC Vive, the current joint leader in the VR race.