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Simulated Driver Training

Vehicle sims are getting so real you may soon need to gas them up.

February 01, 2002  |  by Dave Douglas

GE Capital I-Sim offers training systems that include a full-motion base and a wrap-around projection screen.

In 1999, The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) developed a statewide program called Perishable Skills Training. The program addresses firearms proficiency, defensive tactics and driving skills. POST mandated that every peace officer in California receive four hours of continuing training every two years in each of these identified perishable skills.

As part of the program, POST created 11 Regional Skills Centers, and there are plans to create at least three more. The centers were developed as part of existing police academies and serve all the law enforcement agencies within their regions.

POST provides funds to purchase use-of-force simulators, defensive tactics equipment and driving simulators. Each of the Regional Skills Centers must then develop its own curriculum, within POST guidelines, for a four-hour class.


There are three major producers of driving simulators for police emergency vehicle operations. They are Doron, GE Capital I-SIM and FAAC.

Doron: Binghamton, New York-based Doron Precision Systems, Inc. has, by far, the largest installed base of driving simulators in the country.

Doron's Advanced Mobile Operations Simulator (AMOS) was originally based on an Atari video game. The company bought the software and developed it into a system for instruction.

The first AMOS units were very simple, and the graphics were crude by today's standards. But over the years, Doron has developed new software and applied new hardware technologies, and today it offers the AMOS II, which takes advantage of all these upgrades and offers an optional motion base.

Additionally, Doron introduced the 450LE model at the 2000 International Association of  Chief's of Police convention. It features high-resolution visual imaging on three 42-inch, plasma, wide-screen displays that surround the driver with a continuous 190-degree field of view. The flat-screen, plasma technology also allows the 450LE to fit into limited training spaces.

GE Capital I-Sim: The core engineers at Salt Lake City-based GE Capital I-Sim have been developing high-end driving simulations since the mid-1980s. From its work with a major European automobile manufacturer's driving simulator (then the most advanced vehicle simulator in the world), I-Sim gained a better understanding of human factors and real-time simulator performance. I-Sim is a member of the TRW team building the $40 million National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) program for the Department of Transportation.

The PatrolSim driving simulator in use at my department is one of I-Sim's law enforcement simulators. It provides an open-seat driving station in a high-fidelity driving environment that is suitable for training and research applications. Its operator console provides interactive, real-time control of the driving environment.

PatrolSim incorporates I-Sim's proprietary vehicle dynamics, traffic scenario and road surface software to provide accurate stimuli for the driver. The company also has a system that includes an actual vehicle cab on a full-motion base and a wrap-around projection screen.

FAAC: FAAC Inc. is a privately owned company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that has provided systems engineering and software products to the U.S. government and private industry for more than 30 years. The company conducts tactical air and land combat analysis, and develops analytical models, simulations, and turnkey training systems for the U.S. military and its related industrial contractors.

FAAC's entry into the police emergency vehicle operations arena came with the PP2000 in 1991. The system included a real car cab with three, large screen displays.

In 1999, working with The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, the company developed the PP1000 Simulator. It makes use of five smaller screens that provide better peripheral vision in a more compact package.

What's Next?

Driving simulators are computer driven, and as computer technology advances, simulators will advance.

Phil Raleigh, vice president of sales and marketing at GE Capital I-Sim, sees improvement in the area of fidelity, the term used to describe the simulation of reality. Raleigh says the current 80 percent fidelity level should improve to about 90 percent to 95 percent in the next few years.

Rick Snyder, general manager and director of Vehicle simulations for FAAC, expects improvement in three-dimensional displays and motion-based systems. This will also enhance the student's experience by making it more real.

Police emergency vehicle driving simulators are tools to teach officers decision-making skills. They do not teach us the technical and physical aspects of driving. Some of the very high-end simulators can do that, but are so expensive that no police agency that I am aware of can afford one. Simulators are not tools to teach how to drive, they are tools to teach us how to think and make good decisions while driving.

For more information


GE Capital I-Sim


Dave Douglas is a sergeant on the San Diego PD with 25 years of service. He uses driving simulators on a regular basis in the in-service training division.

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