Virtual reality for bus drivers rolls across Ontario to test skills
The simulator is like an advanced video game that puts real life hazards in front of drivers
Some Ontario school bus drivers and other emergency vehicle operators are putting their skills to the test using a high-tech simulator that puts aggressive drivers in their path and even has deer leap out into the road.
The virtual training tool takes drivers through all types of weather, into tunnels and tight corners. It also gets them close to other potential safety hazards.
"The cars cut you off because they just look at the bus as another vehicle. It's super frustrating. They don't know it's a heavier vehicle and stopping takes longer," said Chelsea Brown, a bus driver and operations supervisor for Voyago London-Middlesex.
Brown is one of 150 bus drivers and 50 ambulance drivers in the London area who have used the simulator that's been parked in the city the past two weeks.
Parked, because the software is set up inside a coach-style bus making it mobile and available for drivers to use across Ontario and Quebec.
The $500,000 unit is owned by the transportation company Transdev, Voyago's parent company and other transit lines, and moves from city-to-city for training.
A company spokesperson says safety in the industry is paramount and the simulator gives drivers a true sense of the road, without actually being on it.
"The physical senses of movement, the rumbling of the seat, and the sounds are incredibly important to replicating the sensation of driving a bus," said Chuck Archer, vice president of marketing and communications for Voyago.
"We drive with our ears and we drive with the feeling in our hands, and all of those senses have an impact on our ability to stay safe on the road and react."
While allowing drivers to dodge road obstacles and practice stopping on ice, it also records speed and braking. Archer says those data points allow the bus company to look at other areas such as fuel consumption.
The simulator will be in Kitchener-Waterloo next week. It then moves into the GTA, and from there, to Ottawa.