Amey pioneers hyper-real simulation training to wake drivers up to danger

Polly Blythe, Press Officer
12 October 2017
Image of a driving simulator.
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Leading infrastructure services firm Amey has launched a new virtual reality tool to wake drivers up to the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel.

The cutting edge new driver training simulator – to be offered as part of a suite of training to the firm’s 13,000 drivers across the UK - combines 360 degree sights, sensations and movements in a way more traditionally associated with the gaming industry.

The venture into totally immersive experience training is believed to be a first in the infrastructure industry as the company pursues ever greater safety performance across all its 300-plus client contracts.

Developed as part of a creative technology incubation project with global experience design company Holovis, Amey’s innovative new kit was unveiled to more than 100 company fleet and transport managers and suppliers at its Fleet and Plant Transport Conference in Oxford on October 11 and 12.

Over the next few weeks a coachbuilder will mount it to a specially-commissioned vehicle featuring a range of other Amey driver training products from where it will tour the UK as part of the firm’s driver training offering.

The Government’s Road Safety Strategy, “Tomorrow’s Roads: Safer for Everyone” identifies driver fatigue as one of the main areas of driver behaviour that needs to be addressed, with shift workers six times more likely to be in a fatigue-related crash, whether that be at work (operating machinery or vehicles) or commuting.

With a 7,500-vehicle fleet supporting hundreds of public and private sector services contracts across the UK, some 13,000 of Amey's 19,000 employees drive as part of their job. Ten per cent of employees work night shifts.

Group fleet and plant director Tom Lawless said although reported incidents within the company were low, driver fatigue was an issue every driver in the UK would face at some point in their lives.

“Despite all the advice, policies, training and support we give our drivers, we can’t be there at the point they are making that decision to get behind the wheel. The idea for the simulator was born out of evidence in our rail business that people who experienced near misses were the safest. By re-creating all the conditions of driver fatigue, and the shock and emotions of a near miss, in a totally safe environment we hope to make our drivers safer, whether they’re at work or not.”

Amey Innovation manager Simon Grundy said the company was continually working with leading tech developers to bring cutting edge ideas into industry through its key partnership with the national Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, where Holovis is also a member. Holovis builds some of the world’s most advanced visualisation and software solutions for enterprise sectors.

“Multisensory simulation is great way to expose people to environments and dramatically teach the consequences of their actions without any real risk,” said Simon.

“Users wear a virtual reality headset with surround audio, special effects and gesture tracked interactivity. At crucial times of the experience, the simulator moves in synch with highly realistic visuals that are accurate 1:1 scale and rendered using real-time media so they behave exactly as they would in the real world. It’s a completely innovative training product.”

After trying the simulator for herself, Amey’s driver risk management co-ordinator Jen Yaxley was blown away by the experience.

“It’s made from real vehicle components, with a driver seat and steering wheel so it’s just like sitting in and driving the real thing. It’s not long before you forget you’re in a simulator. Your vision clouds and you encounter various hazards like a fox crossing the road, then it goes black like a long blink. If you pull into a layby you extend the experience because you are rested. There’s a screen on the outside where people can see what you’re seeing.

“I think it will be very effective. Statistics across the UK show that fatigue is a contributory factor in one in five incidents. I’m not aware of anything like this in the industry. I believe it will be a huge step forward in driver training,” she said.

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