The sustainable applications of driving simulators



To a non-professional, the term driving simulator could bring up the image of a casual game that can be downloaded and played at home. However, a professional driving simulator has nothing to do with entertainment. On the contrary, it is a complex and specialized piece of software whose applications make it a vital asset in certain institutions and research facilities. Thanks to the latest virtual reality innovations, it replicates driving conditions in an accurate manner, allowing users to test and train subjects in a safe and controlled environment. Here are just a few of the innovative and sustainable applications of driving simulators.

Training in driving schools

There are many functions to discuss, but the first and most obvious one is the use of a car driving simulator for training. Thanks to their ease of use, simulators have been successfully implemented in the programs of modern driving schools, where those wishing to get a driver license can learn the basics in a fun and simple way. The innovation was met with huge enthusiasm and student response is positive, because simulators are safer and less intimidating than driving a car on the road for the first lessons. Research and reviews show that after a few hours in a simulator, students experience less panic and anxiety when they go out on the road. Needless to say, it gives beginners the opportunity to enjoy extensive practice, which is essential in increasing road safety. The availability of a simulation program in driving schools isn’t mandatory, but it should definitely be one of the things to consider when choosing one, because it indicates attention to detail, professionalism and commitment to stellar training standards.

Car driving simulators for specific areas of activity

Some jobs involve driving in difficult and stressful conditions. Police officers and ambulance drivers are just two examples. For them, training needs to be even more meticulous, because they must have a quick reaction time to unexpected events, manage heavy traffic, use higher speeds and so on. However, practicing on public roads isn’t always a viable option, because some regions have strict regulations regarding the use of sirens and flash lights. Besides, some scenarios would be impossible to simulate on the road for safety reasons, so a driving simulator such as is the perfect solution. For example, police officers can learn how to handle vehicular drive pursuits and ambulance drivers can practice the transportation of critical patients in heavy traffic.

Fitness to drive and rehabilitation training

A fitness to drive test is a medical assessment usually organized in clinics to determine if a person is physically able to drive without posing a safety hazard. This test is usually required for elderly drivers, but it should also be taken by young drivers if they have suffered from a stroke or any other medical condition that could affect their ability to drive. Although traditional testing methods can also be used (i.e. eye tests or urine samples), their objectivity and thoroughness are questionable. A driving simulator is safer, faster and more reliable.

Rehabilitation training – a driving simulator can be used as part of occupational therapy to speed up recovery. Those who can benefit from it are people who have suffered an accident or have a certain medical condition and need to practice some more in VR until they can be safe on a real world.

Research purposes

These VR simulators are essential in the car industry, where manufacturers use them to test a new vehicle before launching it on the market. Also, research institutes employ them to test the interaction between driver and vehicle or to quantify the influence of certain substances or influences on driver behavior.

Also, in the past years, many organizations have started to use simulators as part of awareness campaigns. For example, drivers caught speeding, texting or not wearing a seatbelt are invited to take part in VR simulations instead of paying the full fine. This is considered a more practical, hands-on and convincing way of increasing awareness and correcting irresponsible driver behavior. Participants, many of which have been fined before, report that it wasn’t until being involved in an accident simulation that they realized the effects of their recklessness and had a change of attitude.

Treating fears and phobias

Physical injury isn’t the only negative outcome after an accident. Unfortunately, driving phobia is an emotionally crippling issue whose severity is comparable to the one of an injury. It manifests as an intense fear to drive a car, even in safe road conditions. People who suffer from it resort to public transport and don’t want to take the wheel because as soon as they do they feel terrified, start trembling, sweating and lose control. Fear of driving has three main causes:

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. People who have been involved in accidents are reluctant towards driving again, because they fear that they could have an accident again and constantly replay the collision scenario in their heads.
  2. Other phobias. Some people may refuse to drive because they have the irrational fear of being criticized, running over someone, crashing or being involved in similar dangerous situations.
  3. Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a large crowd or being far from home. Because driving can take place in this conditions, people who are agoraphobic may want to avoid sitting behind the wheel.

Driving simulators are of great help in managing and treating driving phobias, especially because they offer safer conditions and allow patients to recover at their own pace, without putting too much pressure.