Virtual Reality and Road Safety Education

Virtual Reality (VR)—it’s all fun and games until someone figures out how to use it for the benefit of safety education. And it appears that time is upon us. While still in its infancy, the mainstay of VR has been entertainment, giving users next-level experiences of visual media like video games and films. But since it’s conception (and likely well before it), developers and members of various disciplines have recognized VR for it’s potential educational applications. Since transportation is an industry impacting nearly all members of our society on a daily-basis, it’s the perfect candidate for improvement by way of VR. Recently, two new safety programs have been created to educate pedestrians and drivers alike.

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With the school year underway crosswalks are once again flooded with young children. In Canada, child pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury-related death. To combat these unfortunate statistics, researchers at the University of Guelph are implementing a VR program that teaches students when and how to cross streets safely in real-life scenarios. By wearing the VR goggles, children are fully immersed in pedestrian environments and given the chance to test their reaction time and general attention. A digital character acts as the child’s coach, offering positive reinforcements and directions for improvements. This immersive, tailored approach appears to be working. In a study of 130 children aged 7-10, those trained with the VR program made 75 to 98 percent few road safety errors than their counterparts.

Truckers in England have also received their own VR training program. Highway England has created a VR smartphone app that gives users a simulated view from a truck cab traveling down a highway. This application was initially designed for the use of commercial truckers, but Highway England states that it’s equally beneficial to private drivers who will no doubt encounter heavy goods vehicles (HGV) on the road. A few of the scenarios included in the application are: overtaking, tailgating, joining from a ramp lane, and more. The main goal of the application is to develop awareness for blind spots on trucks, which are naturally much larger than those of an average four-wheel vehicle.

We’re still in the early phases of VR technology, but if these programs are any indication, the future of virtual education tools is looking bright. One could imagine VR technology finding its way into mainstream driver’s education at some point in the near future. If it means safer roads, let the games begin.

#vr #virtualreality #gaming #tech #cars

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