Kitsap Transit launches virtual bus simulator by FAAC Commercial

Kitsap Transit launches virtual bus simulator by FAAC Commercial Image credit: FAAC

Kitsap Transit has launched a virtual bus simulator, designed and built by FAAC Commercial, to help train new bus operators. The goal of the simulator is to offer new operators a fully immersive experience of driving what looks and feels like a real bus, but in a safe environment.

Right now, new operator trainees receive several weeks of in-classroom training – watching videos and learning the basic concepts of driving Routed or ACCESS buses. Trainees get their first crack at driving a bus on a closed course with a driver mentor. 

The simulator comes with two “cabs,” designed for both Routed and ACCESS vehicles, plus a suite of pre-programmed scenarios set in “Safety City.” It’s intended to bridge a gap in Kitsap Transit’s current training program. 

The simulators mirror the inside of Kitsap Transit’s coaches – the cab used to simulate an ACCESS bus was created from a former Kitsap Transit cutaway vehicle. Students sitting in the cab are surrounded by video screens that simulate the outside world, including vehicle traffic, pedestrians, street intersections and buildings. Behind them is a video screen that can show passengers and run scenarios that call on the operator trainee to take action and test their customer service and emergency-response skills. Hydraulic platforms bounce, shift and turn to mimic a vehicle in motion. 

During training, an operator trainer will be coaching the student through scenarios via headset. Students who aren’t driving can watch what the driver is seeing and doing via a screen. The simulator won’t replace real hands-on driving experience, but it will help transition trainees from the classroom to the road.

A library of scenarios is available out of the box, but the system can also be tailored to practice specific skills. If a driver isn’t comfortable making right-hand turns, for example, they can use the simulator to practice their turning technique on repeat. Weather, time of day, bus type, emergencies, traffic and environmental hazards are all configurable. 

Uses extend beyond training new drivers. Operators who get into accidents and require remedial training or veterans who want to brush up on their skills will also be able to use the simulator. After a scenario is complete, trainees can watch a review of their performance.  

Kitsap Transit’s training team has a goal of reducing preventable accidents by 20 percent in 2024, and the simulator will play a big role in meeting that goal. The trainers are being trained in the program and hope to be able to use it with new classes of operators beginning early next year. 

Source: Kitsap Transit