Virtual reality helps new UPS recruits hone their driving skills

Just as businesses are exploring the possibilities offered by drone technology, many are also finding uses for another emerging platform: virtual reality (VR).

Take delivery giant UPS. It recently revealed how it’s about to start using VR headsets such as the HTC Vive to train new drivers to spot and deal with road hazards likely to be encountered during their delivery runs.

Developed by UPS IT experts, the VR training modules will be installed at all nine of its so-called “Integrad” training facilities across the U.S., and will replace the touchscreen devices that UPS currently uses for driver training.

A UPS video (above) highlighting the technology shows a trainee wearing a VR headset while “driving” a van using the kind of steering wheel avid gamers will be familiar with. The teacher can see the trainee’s driving decisions play out on a couple of screens in the room, enabling them to analyze their skills.

“Virtual Reality offers a big technological leap in the realm of driver safety training,” said Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer. “VR creates a hyper-realistic streetscape that will dazzle even the youngest of our drivers whose previous exposure to the technology was through video games.”

Drone delivery

UPS has shown before how it likes to embrace new technology in an effort to drive its business forward. Earlier this year we heard that it was looking into the idea of using drones to make some of its deliveries. It has even built a prototype system featuring a UPS van with a roof that slides open to allow the package-carrying flying machine to zip off and make a delivery before returning for another package a short while later.

If UPS can perfect the design and gain permission from the Federal Aviation Administration somewhere down the line, it envisions using its system in rural locations where there might be, say, two delivery addresses several miles apart. In such a scenario, the van driver would make one of the deliveries while the drone would make the other, saving the driver time and, in theory at least, ensuring a speedier service for waiting customers.