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A strategy that is being used with


success in other industries to train workers in less time and with greater precision, is to use virtual reality (VR), or augmented reality (AR). Nuclear power plant operators use VR and AR to train the plant watch standers and workers, for example. VR and AR are also now used by U.S. Navy subma- rine crews, as well as by Navy and Air Force pilots of very complex and highly technical fighter planes. Even Walmart is using AR and VR


goggles to train its employees in on- the-job procedures and methods.


Creating Confidence and Competence With virtual reality and augmented


reality, a worker puts on a headset and experiences a simulation of the actual conditions in the environment in which they’ll be working. They learn, virtually, as if they’re right there, how to perform all of the motions and use all of the equipment, without assuming any risk of failure—because it is all virtual. “Just as we can test skills in a simu-


lator for airline pilots and truck drivers, we can do the same with school bus drivers [by] simulating different sit- uations in a safe environment. [That creates] confidence and competence through AR/VR, before sending them into the streets,” said Carol Broadwell Dietrich, director of corporate training and technical publications at Blue Bird Corporation. She acknowledged that Blue Bird


is currently creating enhanced video tools for maximizing the charge of its electric school buses, and looking to make this type of training available throughout its employee education catalog. “The up-front costs to develop it may be higher for this type of train- ing development. The ROI through virtual availability will save not only time away from the job, but also the ability to individualize to the specific needs of the industry professional drivers,” she explained.


40 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2019


Enhanced video is


already being used by school bus manufacturers to model new electric school buses.


Training a Systems Manager While school districts every-


where have used technology for many years to solve various issues, training drivers may be something that VR and AR can help solve. That especially seems to be the case because their jobs will likely become more challenging, as more sophisticated systems and tech- nologies continue to be installed on school buses. Howard “Mac” Dashney is the


senior advisor to the Michigan Asso- ciation for Pupil Transportation. He stressed that vehicles such as school buses nowadays are not just simple machines. He said he believes that, in the future, school buses will be even more complex and challenging to drivers, despite the promise of autonomous vehicles to make driv- ing functions automatic. Dashney likens tomorrow’s school bus drivers to system managers, not simply drivers. “People and machines will be a


Augmented and virtual reality can positively affect not only driver training but


coaching and evaluation.


more integrated system,” he fore- casted. “This will require managers to be more aware of the operating and information processing capa- bilities of the vehicle and how to integrate them with the information processing skill of the manager.” However, he added that vehi-


cle operation in schools will not change. “It will still be 95 percent in- formation processing and 5 percent physical operation,” he continued. “The profound change will be in the capability of the vehicle to receive, process information, and make de- cisions regarding vehicle speed and direction.


Dashney explained that hu- man beings will often monitor the operating systems to ensure that appropriate and low-risk operating decisions are being made. However, there will be times, for example in emergency situations, when highly complicated or unusual circum-


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