Serious Labs projects that North American trucking companies will be able to provide all their driver assessment and training through its new Commercial Vehicle (CV) VR Simulator as soon as 2024. This includes skills assessment and onboarding for new hires, as well as annual refresher training for experienced drivers. By eliminating the fuel and maintenance costs of training, trucking companies will see a major cost savings and carbon reduction.
The new Serious Labs simulator is also being designed for use by commercial driving schools. Serious Labs projects it will be able to replace a majority of the in-yard and in-cab training time for new drivers in Canada and the US. Serious Labs is currently finalizing its alpha prototype and preparing for a customer pilot this summer.
"The North American truck driving industry is facing unprecedented challenges and needs as much support as it can get," said Jim Colvin, CEO, Serious Labs. "With the colossal uptick of e-commerce, the demand for truck drivers is greater than ever. The labor shortage is only growing, road safety remains an issue, and attention to carbon emissions is critical."
"The good news is that the time is right for a comprehensive, next-gen simulator to do for the transportation industry what flight simulators have been doing for aviation for decades. VR provides a risk-free, proven method for training that can effectively lower costs, accidents, fatalities, and can get new drivers safely on the road faster," he said.
Compared to currently available truck simulators, Serious Labs’ CV VR training simulator will be more realistic, affordable and comfortable for longer periods of use. “The issues with current products on the market are twofold,” said Wade Carson, Serious Labs’ Senior Director of Product Portfolio. “First, they cause drivers to feel sick within minutes of exposure, which means extremely low time-on-task for drivers, eliminating skill acquisition during driver training. Second, they aren’t designed to deliver and measure the critical components of the entry-level driver training curriculum, so they’re not contextually relevant to tackle the driver shortage.”
Serious Labs aims to address those issues by mapping its new simulator to training requirements and implementing comprehensive measures to address “cybersickness,” the feeling of discomfort that often arises from current-generation simulators. The new simulator will contain 100% of the curriculum for the in-yard and in-cab components of Canada’s Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) content.
"Drivers could potentially complete the full in-yard and in-cab MELT curriculum content, which takes 74.5 hours using conventional methods, in 27 to 36 hours on the simulator. They could then gain additional practice in a commercial truck or repeat certain simulator modules to make sure they’re highly proficient across the board,” said Carson.
Serious Labs also plans to align the simulator with the United States’ new Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) standard, which is based on demonstration of competency rather than a fixed number of in-cab hours. “That’s an ideal use case because simulation actually builds competency faster than traditional training since the experience is more focused,” noted Carson.
With partial funding of $7.3M by the governments of Canada and Alberta, Serious Labs is now seeking additional investment to bring the product to market. The simulator is projected to offer numerous benefits to the transportation industry, including: reducing accidents and fatalities, addressing driver shortages through more efficient and focused training, engaging a new and diverse generation of drivers, lowering operating costs for carriers, and reducing climate impact by offsetting hundreds of trucks’ worth of greenhouse gasses.
According to the US Department of Labor's National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2021, more than one of every seven on-the-job deaths occur in heavy-duty trucking. "Simulated training provides a risk-free environment with real-life situations that doesn't endanger property or drivers," said Carson. "We are able to simulate dangerous driving conditions not always found in traditional training, such as high crosswinds, deer bolting across the road, steer-tire blowouts, driving with a fully-loaded trailer, and so on. Simulation is an excellent way for drivers to practice, and in an industry with a high risk for accidents and fatalities, this product will help save lives."
The CV VR Simulator is entering the pilot for user testing with the support and partnership of the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA). The simulator is scheduled for commercial release in 2024.