New project uses VR to help keep young drivers safe

Deakin University is instilling empathy in young drivers around interactions on the roads involving heavy vehicles using Virtual Reality (VR).

The project will use VR technology to simulate real life driving situations to foster better awareness on how to share the road with bigger vehicles among young drivers.

With Victoria’s emergence from Covid lockdowns, it has become apparent that a vast number of drivers require more education surrounding safety considerations to help them understand how their actions can contribute to road carnage.

Project Lead and Director of Deakin’s CADET Virtual Reality Lab, Professor Ben Horan said the technology is an ideal way to support the learning of a deeper level of empathy for drivers, improving Victoria’s overall road safety.

“This project is a fantastic opportunity 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,” said Horan.

The project is funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI) supported by the Federal Government, with Linfox Logistics as a major partner.

Linfox Group Manager for Safety, Health and Wellbeing, Chris Wilks, said the most prominent feedback they receive is in relation to merging, indicating the risk posed by inexperienced drivers.

“Our heavy vehicle drivers do a terrific job to stay safe on the road. When you consider that most other road users don’t have experience driving a truck, it’s not surprising that some motorists find themselves in dangerous situations,” he said.

“A good example of this is when a motorist suddenly merges into a gap in front of the truck leaving them with little time to stop safely. Quite often, this forces drivers to brake suddenly and potentially take evasive action to avoid an accident.”

The latest stage of the project will include the development of an extended range of VR experiences through partnerships with education providers that are applicable across Australia.