Bus and Motor Coach Library

Driver Simulation Training
                                                                                                Author – Brian Niddery (2001)

New York City Transit's Department of Buses received delivery of its prototype Bus Simulator at the APTA Expo in Orlando, Florida in October of 1999.  This simulator is the first of its kind to employ fully interactive computer graphics in a 360-degree wrap-around computer generated environment.       The initial development of the prototype took into consideration its application and affordability to the transit industry as a whole. 
Continuing in the same vein, NYCT has worked in conjunction with APTA to bring together transit industry trainers and professionals to guide and direct future enhancements to, and functionality of, the next generation of bus simulators.
The first meeting, coordinated by APTA's Greg Hull, Manager, Operations, Safety & Security Programs, was held in New York City in April, 2000.  Over 30 transit professionals attended from properties throughout North America to experience the training benefits of the prototype simulator and discuss applications for its use at their own properties. 
Discussion led to the understanding that collaboration on the part of the transit industry will drive the development of additional features and upgrades to be incorporated into future simulators. 
Industry members were able to develop strategies to share their information and requirements to ensure the maximization of their funding resources.
Various simulator vendors were also invited to hear the concerns of the industry.  This experience left them with additional insights into the issues that will affect the feasibility of employing simulators at various transit agencies.   
At the conclusion of the meeting the group developed a purpose statement: “To champion the development, direction and application of Simulation Technology in the Transit Industry to enhance training's effectiveness, efficiency and standardization.  The group will continue to meet to co-develop, partner, and evaluate simulation technology, ensuring that the transit industry drives the development of products that are affordable, relevant, and effective.”          
A second meeting of interested transit officials was held on January 25th and 26th in NYC, with a follow-up meeting taking place at the May 2001 APTA Bus and Paratransit Conference in Calgary, where this paper was presented, both for informational purposes and to encourage additional participation in the group's efforts.

Simulation Technology Overview
The prototype simulator was developed as a result of a public/private partnership entered into between NYC Transit and FAAC, Inc., a simulator manufacturing company based in Detroit.  Working with NYC Transit, the simulator developers customized their product for bus training applications. 
The first prototype simulator was completed in less than six months time and incorporated the requirements set forth by NYCT. 
The simulator uses a front-end module of an actual production bus unit supplied by New Flyer Industries.  FAAC Inc. modified and scaled this unit into the simulator thereby utilizing the seating, controls, instrument panel, gauges, and bus mirrors.  It has a 315-degree field of vision with an eight-channel wrap-around view, and intelligent, interactive computer generated traffic.  There are three graphic "worlds" created to date, which represent urban, suburban and rural driving conditions.  These worlds link together creations of challenging areas where instructors take their students during "live" training sessions. 
An additional networked vehicle can be driven by an instructor to have instantaneous interaction with the simulator driver. 
There are also logic-programmed events, which can be set to trigger if the driver violates a standard programmed rule.  For example, if the driver comes closer than four feet from occupied parked cars, the simulation will automatically cause the door of the car to open into the side of the bus, resulting in an accident. 
In addition, there are unlimited instructor prompted events; for example, an instructor can prompt a traffic signal to change as the driver approaches an intersection, or a low air indicator light can be set to illuminate. 
The simulator also provides for training under manufactured circumstances such as inclement weather, heavy traffic (up to 60 additional vehicles in close proximity to the bus), day or night conditions, and is also able to simulate equipment malfunctions, such as bus fires.
This state-of-the-art bus simulator incorporates the most advanced technology available today.  It has allowed NYCT to provide technical training in a controlled environment, where both the public and equipment are spared the risks of "live" training.  Results indicate that instruction can be more easily absorbed when the fear of "live" driving is removed from the equation.
To ensure maximum benefit and application for the transit industry, and with the technical assistance of NYCT trainers, the prototype simulator was developed to contain costs to approximate that of a standard transit bus.

Bus Simulator Industry Advisory Group
First Meeting
In an effort to raise awareness of the simulation technology and its applications to the transit industry, New York City Transit, in conjunction with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), organized the first bus simulator industry advisory group meeting.  This meeting, held on April 13th and 14th, 2000, in New York City, was an intensive working session where over 30 participants gathered from throughout North America's transit properties, to drive and evaluate the simulator, and propose ideas for future development, functionality and customization.                     
Simulator vendors were also encouraged to attend, to hear the concerns of industry participants, in order to customize their products to meet their needs. 
The first day was dedicated to ensuring that all participants had the opportunity to drive the simulator and understand its capabilities and training applications.    The second day was a working session, which began with a presentation introducing the simulator and the development process.  After lunch, the group participated in a round table discussion focusing on four areas:   
- Objectives
- Strategies
- Challenges
- Use of Simulation Technology as an enhancement tool for effective training.

The objectives for use of simulation in training included the following:
- Improve training and quality of our product: a successfully trained bus operator
- Encourage standards
- Ensure cost-effective technology
- Reduce accidents: expensive accidents, accidents you can't recreate on a real bus
- Do things you have never done before
- Drive down costs: training, accidents, liability claims
- Take better advantage of existing resources, agencies, private groups, i.e. APTA, NTI, etc.
- Create/strengthen link between Safety and Training
- Provide varied training experiences
- Standardize curriculum and instruction techniques/methods
- Make training fun, interactive, productive and successful
- Ensure flexibility and future upgradeability
- Flexibility: ability to augment, adapt and add new scenarios, incorporate technological advances
- Validate use as a screening mechanism for: prehire, pretraining, prequalify

These objectives clearly reflected each transit property's unique interpretation of how simulation technology could be integrated into their training program.  To achieve these objectives the group determined specific strategies:
- Share technology, requirements, needs, information, and increase buying power
- Steer development of technology
- Lobby government officials- for funding and to gain APTA recognition
The group saw these strategies as being most important to ensure their ability to implement simulation technology at their properties, and ensure that the technology met their needs.  Challenges identified by the group including funding, determining the needs of the specific property, ensuring that the industry directed the development of the technology to optimize its application, and the ability to communicate the need for the technology.

The bus simulator was seen as an enhancement tool for effective training and retraining applications.  Some anticipated uses of the simulator included:
- Reinforce classroom and actual on-board training
- Replay accidents
- Certify and re-certify operators
- Shifter training
- Reevaluate non-preventable accidents
- Evaluate decision-making: bus operator and instructor
- Route troublespots
- Crash scene avoidance
- Emergency stops
- Normal vs. abnormal conditions
- Scoring database/ printout
- Bus fires
- Pedestrian interaction
- Emergency procedures
- Mechanical failures
- Weather conditions
- Incorporate various bus types, including conventional, low-floor, articulated, paratransit, and mid-size.

The group then formulated a mission statement and agreed that the group dialog was effective and should be continued.  The mission statement reflects the group's interest in furthering the use of simulation technology:
"To champion the development, direction, and application of Simulation Technology in the Transit Industry to enhance training: Safety, Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Standards.  To co-develop, partner, evaluate, collaborate, and prioritize to ensure that the Transit Industry drives the development of this important technology."
Still to be answered were the two most basic questions!
Will this technology reduce accidents?
What are the costs/benefits to transit organizations?

Simulator Industry Advisory Group
Second Meeting
NYC Transit hosted the second meeting of the bus simulator industry advisory group on January 24th and 25th, 2001, to continue the dialog begun at the first meeting. 
Over twenty representatives, both new and returnees, participated from properties around the country.  In addition representatives from FAAC, Inc., the vendor/developer of the simulator was again present to hear the concerns of the industry, and conduct a demonstration session of their newest enhancement to the simulator, a scripting software which enables an instructor to "script" an accident or event, with multiple variables. 
This software will allow properties to recreate an accident to demonstrate accident avoidance techniques and correct driving procedures for specific situations.
Once again, participants were invited to drive the bus simulator, and network with colleagues on the first day of the meeting.  The second day consisted of a concise overview of the project, its origins, and a review of the previous groups concerns and findings. At this time NYC Transit also unveiled their accident and washout rate results based on their evaluation of the impact of simulator training over a ten month controlled study. 
Overall, 1174 new-hire bus operators were appointed between November, 1999 and August 2000.  Of these, 214 received two simulator-training sessions.  Of the 214, 177 successfully completed training.  These numbers represent a 17% washout rate for students receiving simulator training.  Of the remaining 960 appointees, 709 successfully completed training.  These numbers represent a 26% washout rate, corresponding to the standard washout rate previous to the introduction of the simulator.  Overall, a 35% reduction in the washout rate was experienced with the introduction of the simulator.  This reduction saves both time and money in recruitment training costs.
The accident reduction rates were similarly overwhelming.  In general, training retention can only be measured for approximately sixty days after completion of a training program.  NYC Transit therefore, measured and tracked accident results for students/bus operators involved in collisions or customer accidents within the first ninety days after appointment to title.                 This ninety-day period takes into account a thirty-day training and route familiarization period, and the following sixty-day training retention time.  Of the 896 students who successfully completed training, 709 were not exposed to the simulator.  Those students had 226 accidents, representing a 31.9% accident rate.  The 177 students who received simulator training had 32 accidents, representing an 18.1% accident rate.  Overall, a 44% accident rate reduction was seen for simulator trained students. 
The ramifications of these numbers are enormous.  It was stressed, however, that all properties might not experience the same high reductions.  It is safe to say, though, that training on a simulator will be highly effective in reducing student and recent graduate accident rates.  NYC Transit has now taken delivery of three new second-generation simulators while the original first-generation simulator is now being upgraded to provide NYCT with a total fleet of four simulators.  This will provide the necessary facilities to ensure that 100% of all new-hirees will undergo simulator training.  It is expected that the addition of simulator training to the curriculum will significantly reduce both the washout rate and accident rate of new-hire bus operators. 
In addition, curriculum is being developed, in conjunction with the new scripting software, to address the re-training needs of bus operators who have recorded multiple accidents.
The second half of the session focused on a demonstration of the new scripting software developed by FAAC, Inc. at the request of NYC Transit.  In addition, new functionality and upgrades to the current prototype were described.   
This continuous improvement process allows for the open exchange of information between properties and the vendor to ensure that the needs of each specific agency are met in terms of application, functionality and flexibility for expansion for future needs.                             This dialog ensures that the transit industry will continue to drive the development of this effective training tool, with a positive impact on each transit property's safety, training effectiveness, and efficiency. 
NYC Transit plans to continue to involve the transit industry to increase awareness of the bus simulators' effectiveness and applications for training and retraining.  To that end, the second-generation simulator was displayed at the National Transit Institute's Transit Trainers Workshop held in St. Louis in April, 2001 and as well, at an event in Baltimore, hosted by Maryland Mass Transit.  A follow-up meeting took place in Calgary, May 2001, in conjunction with APTA's Bus and Paratransit Conference. 
These venues allow for interested transit professionals to interact with our trainers and managers to determine the applicability of simulation technology for their agencies.  This sharing of information can only lead to a safer and better-trained transit workforce.
The pioneering efforts of NYC Transit in collaboration with FAAC, Inc. of Michigan in the application of bus driver simulation technology, has in part earned this year's APTA Golden Safety Award.

This pioneering effort by New York City Transit over the last six years has resulted in a training program that is now showing remarkable results.  Numbers include 44% fewer accidents and a 35% reduction in trainee washout rates!  Given the high direct and indirect cost impact that vehicle accidents represent for a transit property and the bus industry in general, and the shortage of qualified drivers, these numbers are cause for the entire bus industry to sit up and take notice.
            These numbers; however, are not surprising!  Similar benefits of driver simulation training have been experienced in the trucking industry and in the military in both North America and Europe.  Studies conducted by the U.S. Military have shown that retention of training is two to three times greater for simulation based training compared to traditional training methods.  North American Van Lines has utilized simulator training since 1992, which initially resulted in 22% fewer accidents, and a whopping 36.5% fewer accidents through driver re-training programs.  The German Army conducted a controlled study between simulation training versus traditional training methods in 1991. Simulator trainees scored higher in their final driver tests than their counterparts in 15 out of 18 aspects of driving.
            The technology used in driver simulation, like their counterparts in flight simulators, has grown by leaps and bounds since 1991, which suggests that the effectiveness of driver simulation training and retraining has increased dramatically in recent years.
            Mr. Steve Vidal, Chief Officer for Safety, Training and Performance, for New York City Transit, has been instrumental in initiating this pioneering effort and in developing a simulator-enhanced driver training program specifically for bus industry.