Driving schools in India are increasingly using driving simulators as a part of their training programme for prospective drivers. Simulators provide many advantages over traditional training and need only an instruction vehicle and instructor.
With the increasing number of road accidents and fatalities in India, the role of drivers and their mistakes leading to accidents has come increasingly under scrutiny. According to a report prepared by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, about 78% of road accidents in India happen due to drivers’ errors. Hence, imparting quality training to drivers is of prime importance. Driving schools in India are increasingly using driving simulators as a part of their training programme for prospective drivers. The simulators provide many advantages over traditional training as only an instruction vehicle and an instructor are used in the process. Driving simulators expose trainee drivers to a variety of traffic situations in a short period of time. This makes the training more intense and productive, offering trainees a number of educational lessons during a short period.
Driving simulation is a technique which uses a computer software and appropriate hardware to simulate within a virtual environment the process of driving a motor vehicle. Using a set of controls such as a steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator pedal and gears, the user interacts with a simulated vehicle and manoeuvres it in real-time. As the training on a simulator is being conducted in a virtual environment, the driving simulator can do tasks which are not possible in the real world.
Comparatively, training with vehicles in real-life traffic gives considerably fewer educational moments. Another advantage is the feedback, such as visual feedback, it offers to the trainee driver and the instructor which is an essential part of any learning. E.g. if the driver swerves and goes off the proper path, the instructor can point this out in real-time and project a straight line onto the display to correct him. On many simulators, the trainee’s performance on the simulator can also be recorded from different points of view, such as from another road user’s point of view or from a bird’s eye view, and played back later to show the trainee the mistakes he/she has made. Simulators also offer the possibility of repeatedly exposing the trainee to a traffic situation which needs to be tackled like reversing a vehicle and parking it into a parking slot in a parking lot, or merging into highway traffic. This situation can be stage-managed repeatedly in a simulator which cannot be done with real-life training on the road.
Another aspect is that with traditional training the assessment of a trainee is the subjective opinion of the instructor, whereas in a simulator the software offers a uniform, objective assessment with the criteria used for assessment being clear, accurate and transparent. One of the most important advantages a simulator based training offers the trainees is a safe environment to practice driving without the fear of being involved in accidents. Echoing this, Amit Sharma, head of the Maruti Driving School at a Sai Service Station in Mumbai, says, “The novice driver often has a fear of hitting other vehicles and pedestrians while driving. But since there is no actual traffic involved in simulators, he can train on using the various controls like clutch, accelerator, brake and steering without this fear and in a very peaceful frame of mind. Even when the driver hits a vehicle or pedestrian, it is in the virtual world. These mistakes are immediately detected by the simulator software and the trainer can then correct these mistakes in the future training sessions. With simulators, the trainees become familiar with the driving controls of the car before they actually go on the road and drive. They learn to change gears, accelerate and brake before going on the road for practical training. They are also trained in the coordination that is required during manoeuvres such as changing gears, changing lanes and overtaking. This puts the driver at a big advantage. Now he or she has to only learn how to get used to the real-life traffic on the road. More than half of the training is already done on the simulator by the time the driver goes on to train on the actual vehicle.”
“With simulators, the trainees become familiar with the driving controls of the car before they actually go on the road and drive…More than half of the training is already done on the simulator by the time the driver goes on to train on the actual vehicle.”- Amit Sharma.
Shantanu Gupta, Managing Director, Tecknotrove (P) Ltd (a Mumbai based company which makes simulators in India) says, “With simulators the driving schools can now train drivers on a variety of terrains like cities, highways, hills and under different environmental conditions like day, night, rain, fog, snow without having to leave the classroom which is not possible in traditional real life and behind the wheel training. Also, getting trained on a state-of-the-art simulator engages drivers interactively helping them to practice, retain and apply what they have learned. Tecknotrove believes that we can make Indian roads the safest in the world by inculcating concepts of road safety as a personal responsibility of every driver. With driving simulators, we are improving the standards of driver training and road safety education in India.”
Adds Ashok Atluri, Chairman and Managing Director, Zen Technologies (P) Ltd, Hyderabad who too is a manufacturer of simulators, “Driving simulators are very important in ensuring safe roads and an accident-free environment. Properly equipped driving schools with trained manpower, simulators and cars can do a great service to the society by imparting good driving skills to the citizens. This will not only ensure a relatively accident free environment but also save on fuel consumption and result in lesser wear and tear of the vehicles. By learning on driving simulators that are tailor-made for Indian roads, learners will be able to drive under simulated conditions and then be ready for a smooth transition to actual driving. The instructor can create various driving situations and test the learner in a safe environment. Faults committed by the learner during the training session can be recorded and analysed later for feedback. Such tight loop feedback can enhance the driving skills of the learners significantly ensuring that they learn only the best practices.”
Investing in simulators pays off in the long run. Says Gupta, “Our customers include Maruti Driving Schools (MDS), Transport Authorities, road safety institutes like IRTE (Institute of Road Traffic Education), IDTR (Institute of Driving Training & Research), NATRIP (National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project) and many other local driving schools in India. From our customers’ experience, we know that with TecknoSim Driving Simulators, driving schools not only recover their money invested on the simulator within six to eight months of installation, but their revenues too are much higher than the average driving schools and training institutes. Simulators provide standardised training and also give the advantage of a 24×7 operation with less requirement of manpower. Driver training centres are able to train more number of drivers in the same time and also incur lesser training costs than normal schools. Simulators make the entire learning process an enjoyable experience.”