Highways England uses VR to expose blind spots

Chris Ames

Highways England is using virtual reality to raise commercial drivers’ awareness of their blind spots – particularly those from abroad – and reduce the risk of incidents.

It has developed a free app that can be accessed on a smartphone attached to a simple pair of cardboard goggles so drivers can use it before they get behind the wheel.

The app has been developed to stress the importance of adjusting mirrors to cater for driving in a different way when in the UK and includes five road safety scenarios for both left and right hand drive vehicles.

John Walford, Highways England's commercial vehicle incident prevention team leader, said: ‘We have set ourselves the long-term vision that no-one should be harmed while travelling or working on our roads, and within that it is doing all we can to help reduce collisions involving lorries because they tend to have a greater impact when they do occur.

‘They most commonly occur when trucks change lanes or attempt to overtake and using this technology allows us to provide a realistic environment for commercial vehicle drivers so that they can experience the impact of not using their mirrors to check blind spots.

‘It’s just one of the steps we’re taking to help improve safety for this valuable group of drivers and ultimately everyone who uses our network.’

The five scenarios are:

  • mirror adjustment
  • identifying vehicles in blind spots
  • joining a motorway from a slip road
  • overtaking
  • tailgating

Highways England said that although the app was developed for commercial vehicle drivers it could also benefit private motorists by giving them a sense of what commercial vehicle drivers experience every day - for example, helping them to understand the location of commercial vehicle blind spots and hence reduce the potential for incidents.

It added that the app is just an example of the safety initiatives that has developed as part of its commercial vehicle incident prevention programme. The programme includes initiatives to improve the design and maintenance of commercial vehicles and initiatives to assist operators and drivers.

Examples include:

  • a joint initiative with police using HGV cabs to target dangerously driven vehicles;
  • the installation of sophisticated tyre/vehicle measurement (tyre pressure, tyre tread depth, vehicle weight, axles heat) technology at key locations;
  • initiatives with the Health & Safety Executive and the police to improve load security; and interventions to reduce diesel spillages which damage the carriageway and cause long delays.
  • the development of truck stop apps in Polish and Romanian.

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