Ausnew Home Care | Virtual reality technology helps students

Virtual reality technology helps students with a disability gain driver's licence, boosts confidence

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Matthew Chapman isn't worried about his first time behind the wheel as a learner driver because he's driven dozens of times in the virtual world.

The Year 11 student at Clifford Park Special School in Toowoomba has used a virtual reality (VR) headset to learn skills like steering, navigating traffic and driving in wet conditions.

"Driving to school is definitely one of [my goals] and going to a friend's house and going into shops and going to work," Matthew said.

All students at the school have an intellectual disability and some have additional physical and sensory disabilities.

Teacher Jason Brouwer said the VR technology offered major advantages for students who preferred a hands-on method of learning.

"Previously we'd learn about the road rules, we could discuss what the consequences of actions were if you weren't to follow them," he said.

"They feel really proud of themselves at the end of the process.

"You can see that in the way they carry themselves."

Welcome to the future

Twenty-one students at the school have gained a learner driver permit so far this year after using the school's VR driving system.

The Endeavour Foundation has donated the technology to 17 regional Queensland schools that are using it to teach students life skills like how to catch a bus, use an ATM, as well as drive. 

The foundation's Chris Beaumont, who worked with the Queensland University of Technology to design the modules, said it gradually planned to release more difficult scenarios. 

"That will lead them into getting onto the highway and doing some highway driving."

Computer screen showing simulated driving route with various settings. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
The technology is modelled on a real street in Toowoomba and offers different traffic and weather settings.(

ABC Southern Queensland: Lucy Robinson


Not every student from the school will go on to drive independently, but Mr Brouwer says they will all be given the chance to use the VR system and take the learner's permit test.

"We've had students who have gained their licence and they have been able to use that as part of [accessing] full-time open employment, which is our ultimate goal," he said.

"Even if it's not [possible] that's still going to help them in their everyday mobility and getting out in the community.

Female school principal with two male students standing either side, all smiling.
Principal Matt Chapman, Corina Searchfield and Shannon Elira all speak positively about the VR technology.(

ABC Southern Queensland: Lucy Robinson


The VR module restarts whenever students crash into objects or lose control during a manoeuvre.

"Quite a few students have lost control in various interesting ways," Mr Brouwer said.

"But they turn it around. They'll go, 'Okay, I can learn from that.'" 

Not a replacement

Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads said while there was great potential in VR, in-person instruction would remain important.

"The strongest evidence for crash reduction in novice drivers is associated with extensive, on-road, supervised driving experience in the real world," a spokesperson said.

"We will continue to monitor developments in VR technology and its application for learner drivers.

Photo shows top of Austroads learner driver handbook laying on toy road map with toy cars.
Authorities say in-person supervision is still the most effective way to teach driving skills. (

ABC News: Rachel Riga


The Australian Driver Trainers Association said VR could be a useful starting point for new drivers.

"This might give them an opportunity to better understand what driving is really like," said president Julie Emerson.

"As a driver, you always have those distractions … of friends and your favourite song on the radio and the cute dog that goes past."

Greater independence

The president of Disabled Motorists Australia, Emilio Savle, said someone with a disability could face extra challenges when learning to drive — but the rewards were massive.

A hand holds a driver's licence out a car window.
Every student at Clifford Park Special School has the chance to sit the test for their learner's permit.(

ABC News: Toby Hunt


"We have quite a few members around Australia that do drive and have driven for many years and that's given them total independence," he said.

"I think anything in the toolbox that would assist a person, whether they have a disability or not, would be an advantage in being able to learn how to drive."


Source: ABC

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