Driving simulators provide a platform for trainers to exercise more control over the learning process. This allows them to monitor the progress of individual learners and direct training for low-performing drivers.
However, it’s important to remember that simulators measure performance, not behavior. It is extremely unlikely that a simulator will improve a driver’s tendency to speed, run red lights, or pay attention to non-driving distractions.
Replicating Real-World Situations
Unlike traditional methods of driving training, simulators are designed to simulate road conditions, weather, and geographic environments. This flexibility creates thousands of scenarios for practice. This self-paced learning reduces frustration and facilitates better comprehension, retention, and skills transfer to the real world.
Simulator training can also provide immediate and high-quality feedback through images, symbols, sound, and embedded video clips within each scenario (e.g., a kinetic energy meter and alternative camera angles for playback). These timely and non-verbal cues accelerate learning by reducing educational background, language, and culture barriers.
Using the power curve model, it was demonstrated that participants who had already adapted to the steering task in a practice scenario still required time to adapt to a new cornering task. This suggests that the time for adaptation is independent of the task and not related to the degree of improvement in performance on the practice task.
Developing good driving skills requires more than knowing the road rules and physical abilities. You need to recognize potential hazards and react quickly to them. A simulator can help you test your ability to do this by simulating different scenarios and seeing how you respond.
Research has shown that simulators can improve your attention and hazard perception.
Drivers who use simulators regularly can retrain their minds to stay focused and alert, improving consistency and concentration. This can also reduce the risk of accidents and increase safety. It can even help drivers overcome health issues like sleep disorders, fatigue, and back pain that might cause poor performance on the road.
Developing Decision-Making Skills
A driving simulator can also help train drivers with critical thinking and decision-making skills. This training is essential in dangerous situations to replicate on the road.
Researchers have found that simulators effectively teach novice drivers to assess a situation and decide on the best action. This training can also help improve a driver’s ability to prioritize warnings and manage mental workload.
Another benefit of simulators is that they can provide immediate, accurate feedback. This can be incredibly useful for fleet managers who want to ensure every driver gets the same road conditions and weather. It can also allow them to document and analyze each driver’s performance consistently, ensuring they get the training they need.
Developing Speed Control
Most driving simulators offer high-fidelity image generation, advanced motion capabilities, and a rich tool suite. These engineering-class simulators have medium-size form factors and often link to sophisticated vehicle sub-system models through Software-in-the-Loop (SIL) or Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) test benches in real-time.
This enables drivers to practice critical events in a controlled and safe environment. For example, simulation training can improve a driver’s ability to respond quickly to emergencies like tire blowouts, animal or pedestrian crossing the road, etc.
Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that simulators measure driving performance or what a driver can do; they don’t address underlying reasons for crash risk like speeding, running red lights, and paying attention to non-driving distractions. Therefore, it is crucial to continue to train on real vehicles and alternate between them and driving simulators.
Developing Braking Skills
As a vehicle driver, you must manage your car’s speed and direction while avoiding collisions and other traffic incidents. This requires a high level of coordination that can be learned through simulation-based training.
Simulator-based training allows learners to experience an unlimited range of driving situations that would be difficult and costly to reproduce in real cars on roadways. This type of training can improve driver control, traffic management, and hazard perception without building dangerous overconfidence.
Researchers have found that when simulator-based training is combined with dedicated courseware, it can be at least as effective as in-car training. A recent study of truck drivers who used a simulator-based course before entering the professional driving program showed that they reached the same level of competence in the vehicle within half the time required to learn on the job.