AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Clever research to tackle driver shortage

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> A leading rail researcher is heading up a unique project to develop a driver simulator display tool to fast-track driver training which could ultimately make big inroads into rail’s perennial train driver shortages. </span> <p>Leading human factors researcher and transport psychologist, Dr Anjum Naweed, from the CRC for Rail Innovation and CQUniversity’s Appleton Institute in Adelaide, was recently awarded $235,000 from the Australian Research Council for the project, titled: Faster, Cheaper, Safer: How to accelerate rail driver training and avert the looming skills shortage.</p><p>Dr Naweed will work with leading hi-tech simulator company, SYDAC, along with Associate Professor Matthew Thomas and Professor Drew Dawson to ‘reinvent’ driver training technologies and techniques for the 21st century.</p><p>The project will help address the forecast shortages for train drivers in Australia – the industry needs to double the number of drivers trained in order to meet current and future demand.</p><p>The project will do this by developing a new methodology to train and asses the competence of drivers in a more efficient way.</p><p>The ‘mental model’ used by drivers for the train driving task is at the heart of the project. Dr Naweed says while train drivers picture driving in 3D, current display tools used in simulators are in 2D which means drivers spend many hours training to acquire route knowledge in ways that do not efficiently reflect their mental model of train driving.</p><p>“So far, we haven’t been able to accelerate driver training because the way trains and simulators display the operating environment is fundamentally different to the way drivers actually encode this information in their heads,” Dr Naweed says.</p><p>“If we can develop a simulator tool that is more congruent with the way a driver actually sees the world – which is in 3-dimensional terms – then there is real potential to significantly accelerate the driver training process.”</p><p>Dr Naweed likens the innovative tool to a “sophisticated training ‘TomTom’” for train drivers.</p><p>“At the moment, simulator tools used in driver training look like 2-dimensional graphs. A display that is three-dimensional and includes factors such as gradients and curves in ways that communicate the real depth of these features would be much more consistent with the real world,” he says.</p><p>“The end result will hopefully make driver training faster, cheaper and safer and help the industry avert the looming driver shortages.”</p><p>CQU’s Appleton Institute is the only research group in Australia with the necessary facilities, expertise, and experience to conduct simulation-based rail research looking at human-train interactions.</p><p>The Institute houses a full-cab rail safety research simulator owned by the CRC for Rail Innovation, which can collect human performance data for freight and passenger operations using real-world track scenarios.</p><p>For more information please email <a href="mailto:anjum.naweed@cqu.edu.au">anjum.naweed@cqu.edu.au</a></p>