Meet the virtual reality hazard perception tests of the future

Meet the virtual reality hazard perception tests of the future
The next overhaul of the driving theory test could see candidates strapping on virtual reality (VR) headsets.

The RAC Foundation and Nottingham Trent University (NTU) have teamed up with the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to see if hazard perception skills could be put to a more immersive test.

Researchers are developing training materials and two 360 degree tests to compare their use against single-screen equivalents.

The project website says that “Virtual Reality promises much in terms of immersion and the evocation of more naturalistic behaviour, but we do not have clear evidence of the benefits in terms of driving-safety interventions. This research aims to fill this gap.”

One of the tests uses footage from real vehicles while the second uses computer-generated images.

Both versions use clips from the perspective of the driver which stop just as a hazard begins to develop. Users must then choose from four options about what happens next.

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This isn’t the first example of VR technology designed to improve road safety. Road Safety Scotland’s “Don’t risk it” video puts headset wearers in a driving test that culminates in an unexpected hazard, while Leicester Fire & Rescue Service’s “Virtual Fatal 4 360” features a video of a car crash and its aftermath.

NTU says: “Our tests are a little more taxing than the standard UK test that is used by the DVSA."2

During current hazard perception tests (first introduced in 20023) candidates are shown 14 video clips with at least one containing two developing hazards.

To record a high score users are asked to click their mouse as soon as they see a hazard developing.

In January 2015 the clips were given a modern makeover when computer-generated imagery replaced real-life footage for added clarity, and to produce a more diverse range of scenarios.

Curious motorists can take the new test from Nottingham Trent University for free by downloading the software through the Oculus Store.

You’ll need to register with the university’s psychology department to take part and your anonymised scores will help developers to better understand hazard perception skills and how to train them.

What's your take on the VR hazard perception test? Let us know whether you think it's here to stay in the comments below.



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