Timing is everything. 

 After purging my e-folder of a July 2021, US Government Accountability Office Report to Congressional Requesters, “MILITARY VEHICLES. Army and Marine Corps Should Take Additional Actions to Mitigate and Prevent Training Accidents,” within days MS&T posted content on several, forward-leaning technology developments in the military driving training sector.   

This April, XR Training was awarded a production agreement through an Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) with Consortium Management Group, Inc. (CMG) on behalf of Consortium for Command, Control and Communications in Cyberspace (C5) with the US Marine Corps to develop a driver training system for the new Amphibious Combat Vehicle

The ACV is deployment ready and gains a much-needed boost to its training system. Attributes of the new driver training system were highlighted by the author this past December and in the contract announcement article.

Also, this April, Babcock announced its investment in an R&D project to support the future of military driver training. The company signed an agreement with VRAI, Novatech and Bohemia to investigate how technology can be used to create training environments at scale which are: focused on the user experience; insight intensive; and can be used to train quickly, effectively and reach competence at accelerated rates.

A Risky Environment 

The defense-industry team is expanding its efforts to improve service driver training skills with good reasons. 

The above, cited GAO report noted that a lack of adequate driver training and a failure to implement safety practices were the most common causes of Army and Marine Corps vehicle rollovers over the last decade. The document showed there were 3,753 tactical vehicle accidents from noncombat scenarios and 123 resulting military deaths from 2010 to 2019. Nowhere in the GAO report or the review/endorsing letters by US DoD chains-of-command was there a recommendation to offload driver training from live vehicles into legacy-era simulators and related training devices, nor the suggestion to advance R&D in this learning field. Rather, the report, while well-researched and written, focused on bureaucratic-leaning solutions: increasing the capacity of training ranges and areas to better conduct vehicle training; strengthening operator licensing; and like tasks. 

Mikaela Green, Through Life Training Capability Director for Babcock, shared her insights with MS&T from the perspective of Babcock International Group delivering multiple training contracts involving driver training for both UK MoD and the emergency services. “From our own observations, customer feedback and engagement with subject experts, we believe that training would benefit from greater utilization of driver simulation to teach a variety of hazard perception scenarios within a safe environment. Our aim is to undertake testing and experimentation to address areas where our customers have identified problems and determine where learning technology would provide possible solutions. Examples include off-road driving on hard clay surfaces, simulation of a tire blowout whilst driving, navigating heavy traffic in urban areas under blue lights and sirens, and the ability to drive various vehicle variations in different condition and terrains.”

The Babcock executive added a bit of elucidation to the company’s recent contract announcement, noting VRAI, who, in partnership with Novatech Ltd, Varjo for VR headsets and BISim for VBS4 software, will design and deliver a VR/hard synthetic simulation capability. VRAI’s HEAT data analytics and insights tool will be critical to the success of evidencing and influencing future decisions regarding the use of driver simulation. “Additionally, we are collaborating with the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and academia such as Cranfield University to ensure that our focus and research align with industry needs.”  

Green significantly added, “this exciting project is expected to deliver the driver simulator solution in the summer of 2024, followed by a period of research and design of credible training scenarios. Babcock expect to have a full demo capability by late summer 2024 and to showcase it at IT2EC 2025.”

Niall Campion, Managing Director for Product & Customers at VRAI, provided another perspective on the scope of the project’s enabling technologies, telling MS&T, at VRAI, we believe that data is the untapped resource in simulation training and have developed HEAT to turn this resource into actionable insights. “We are delighted to be able to work with Babcock to bring this pioneering technology to driver training. By capturing structured training data, the project team will not only be able to assess individual trainee performance, but also that of the simulator in general, providing objective, actionable insights when considering the potential future impact of the research,” he concluded. 

On MS&T’s Watch List

The USMC ACV simulator system and Babcock’s defense driver project are two instances of efforts to advance the quality of military training programs. MS&T will be following and commenting on other efforts in the S&T sector.      

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