Immersive Work Zone Inspection Training Using Virtual RealityAuthor/Presenter: Edara, Praveen; Sun, Carlos; Aati, Khaled; Chang, Daeyeol
Can virtual reality tools be used to train engineers that inspect work zones? In this report, we share the findings of a research project that developed an interactive and immersive training platform using virtual reality to train state department of transportation (DOT) staff that inspect work zones for compliance. Virtual reality offers an immersive platform that closely replicates the actual experience of an inspector driving through a work zone, but in a safer, cheaper, and quicker way than field visits. The current training practice involves reviewing temporary traffic control procedures and reports, and pictures from previous inspections. The developed platform consists of a learning module and an immersive module. The learning module is founded on the historical knowledge gained by DOT staff from inspections dating back at least five years. This knowledge incorporated representative inspection reports from prior years from all DOT districts including photographs of deficiencies. The synthesized knowledge was converted into a concise, easy-to-consume format for training. The immersive module places the trainee in a vehicle moving through a work zone, thus providing a realistic experience to the engineer prior to inspecting a real work zone. The research team developed and tested two immersive scenarios of a freeway work zone. The training platform was tested by 34 individuals that worked for the Missouri Department of Transportation. An overwhelming majority (97%) agreed that virtual reality offered a realistic and effective way to train inspectors. One additional scenario of flagger operations in a two-way one lane work zone was also created for the purposes of training work zone inspectors. The scenario was developed in Unity using drive-through video data, mapping software, and motion capture technology for replicating manual flagger movements. The use of flagger scenario in the immersive training module is recommended for staff that inspect work zones in rural areas of the state where two-lane roadways are more prevalent.