5DT’s Advanced Driving Simulator provides realism in a controlled environment to teach people how to drive trucks safely. Ryan de Smidt reports
The use of simulators is becoming an ever-popular method of driver training. They are efficient, quick and they don’t put other road users at risk, with an instructor taking up a position behind a computer screen to evaluate a trainee’s driving prowess. Fifth Dimension Technologies (5DT) is one such company that offers this type of driver training.
Since inception in 1993, 5DT – which has offices in the United States, Australia, Chile, India, and South Africa – has developed training simulators and virtual reality systems that are used in a number of industries, including mining, construction, aerospace and defence.
Recently, the company expanded its operations to include the commercial vehicle sector, launching its Advanced Trucking Simulator earlier this year at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Kentucky.
“We see the road transport market as a natural progression for us,” says Hanno Willers, communication manager 5DT South Africa. “We’ve got the skills base and experience from developing simulators for everything from half-ton pickup trucks – bakkies as we know them here – to 300-ton trucks used in the mining industry. We feel we can offer the commercial vehicle market a very compelling product.”
Willers says the company’s aim is to improve road safety by providing drivers with the skills they need to operate vehicles in a secure and efficient way. “Our training solutions are a natural fit in terms of the road transport industry’s priorities, namely improving road safety, increasing productivity and reducing maintenance and operating costs. We have listened to our clients and identified an opportunity in the market”.
Locally, 5DT has utilised its simulator systems in a number of client training operations, including those involving Eskom (via its Roshcon subsidiary), as well as SAB Miller, while discussions are underway involving the training of drivers at 10 of the country’s largest trucking and logistics companies.
5DT separates itself from rival simulator providers by offering a comprehensive training programme that consists of three elements – an e-learning course which develops the trainee’s theoretical knowledge base; a vehicle inspection trainer which teaches the trainee how to perform pre- and post-trip inspections, and finally the advanced training simulator which develops the driving skills of the trainee in a focused, rapid and comprehensive manner.
“In terms of functionality our simulator is world class,” says Willers. “It offers numerous technical and practical features that create a realistic experience for the trainee, preparing him or her for the real-life experience of driving an actual truck.”
Among the features are a six-axis motion base, active force feedback steering, multiple transmission options including automatic, semi-automatic and manual configurations, a photorealistic visual environment and a modular design for easy switching between different SimCABs.
The training simulator cabin is identical to that of a truck cabin, with a variety of OEM dashboard and seats on hand to get the trainee accustomed to exactly the same type of vehicle that he or she will be driving on a daily basis.
“The goal is to prepare drivers for the environment and machine they’ll actually be working in. The virtual environment is displayed on three ultra-high definition screens that fully immerse trainees in the simulated environment,” Willers says.
Pothole avoidance, blowouts and jack-knifing are just some of the simulations available, but Willers says clients have the ability to determine which situations they want their drivers to experience in order to achieve specific learning outcomes.
“The trainee will be driving a simulated truck that sounds, looks, and feels like a real truck. Realism is key for us,” he says.