Simulator teaches large vehicle, manual transmission driving

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Vollmer

The 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron recently acquired a new innovation to increase Airmen safety and save the Air Force money.

Dubbed the SimuRide, the $7,800 driving simulator puts Airmen into the “seat” of a semi-tractor trailer or 44-passenger bus without leaving the office.

Most Airmen arriving from technical school and reporting to the base’s ground transportation element have little to no experience with manual transmissions or operating large vehicles, according to Theodore Millard, 96th LRS ground transportation manager.  However, in the operational Air Force, many of the large vehicles run using a 13-speed manual transmission.

“This new tool is a game changer for our Airmen,” said Millard. “This system affords Airmen the opportunity to train in a non-threatening way before they take the vehicles out on the roadway.”

The SimuRide multi-display unit includes interactive software, a rig seat, steering wheel, three pedals, and a gear shifter. Enhanced driving simulation software allows the user to feel resistance on the steering wheel during turning maneuvers and tremors if the vehicle hits the curb or the road shoulder.

In addition to learning to operate a multi-speed manual transmission, Airmen also practice driving in traffic, taking wide turns, or backing up a long, straight road to a dock. The SimuRide’s simulated rear-view and side-view mirror blind spots help perform parallel parking or other activities requiring such views.

“Teaching our Airmen to drive in this type of environment promotes key driving traits that will reduce future accidents and damage to the vehicles thus resulting in tangible savings for the Air Force,” explained Millard.

As a new Airman in this career field, Airman 1st Class Casita Jay, 96th LRS ground transporter, is excited about the opportunity to train without the risk of damaging the vehicles.

“I learn by hearing, seeing, and doing,” explained Jay. “Being able to incorporate all of my learning styles into one training device is incredibly helpful.”

While technical school focused on an overview of large vehicles and maintenance checks, Jay said she did not have much practice driving the vehicles in a real world scenario.

“I think using the SimuRide will definitely relieve some of my anxiety of driving and shifting on the road for the first time. I’ve never driven a manual transmission, so this will be a good way to learn without worrying about damaging the vehicle,” said Jay.

According to Millard, the SimuRide helps the Air Force save approximately $2,500 a year in fuel costs, and an untold amount in possible accident damages.

The procurement of the driving simulator is a result of the 96th Test Wing’s emphasis on squadron innovation. The 96th LRS Deployment and Distribution Flight met with the wing’s Innovation Team in October 2019 to pitch their idea. They received full funding for the project in January.

In February 2018, the 96th TW launched the Innovation Office here, giving Airmen of all ranks the opportunity to present their ideas and solutions to wing leadership. Airmen are able to upload their innovation ideas to a SharePoint site for consideration.