Deakin University is using virtual reality (VR) to foster empathy in young drivers around interactions with heavy vehicles on the road.
The project simulates common and dangerous scenarios on the road, giving young drivers a literal reality check of how their actions may contribute to road carnage.
An increase in a lack of awareness on sharing the road with bigger vehicles as well as the need to educate road users about the safety considerations when sharing the road with heavy vehicles has lead to the VR program being developed for inexperienced drivers.
Project lead and Director of Deakin’s CADET Virtual Reality Lab, Professor Ben Horan, said the project is an excellent tool for young drivers to step in the shoes of heavy vehicle operators.
“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 and why it is so important for passenger vehicles to drive safely when interacting with heavy vehicles,” he said.
Horan said many young drivers are now shocked by their lack of awareness following their experience with the simulated scenarios, realising just how risky their behaviour may 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,” he said.
The VR project is being funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s Heavy Vehicle Initiative (HVSI) supported by the Federal Government and includes a range of partners including Linfox Logistics and the Transport Accident Commission.
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.