Driving Simulator aims at better drivers without fuel, mechanical costs

LIHU‘E — The County of Kaua‘i took delivery of a Driver Simulator Friday afternoon after George Perez, the Senior Training Manager of L3 Communications, went through the final steps of training the Kaua‘i Fire Dept. driver training corps at the Lihu‘e Fire Station.

Situated inside a 30-foot trailer, the simulator provides driver training for a variety of vehicles and is beneficial to not only the fire department, but all the departments, said Kaua‘i Fire Chief Robert Westerman who was joined by Assistant Chief John Blaylock in overseeing the final training.

“The simulator was obtained through one of the grants spearheaded by Dean Lake,” Westerman said. “Eighty percent of the simulator cost was through a grant with the county coming up with 20 percent.”

Lake, a fire captain, said the key to the grant was having the simulator housed in a trailer for mobility and being able to wheel the simulator to the different parts of the island.

One of the objectives was to save on fuel, bringing the simulator to the different locations for training instead of having the personnel drive in to Lihu‘e.

Dustin Alfiler, one of the KFD trainers, said not only does it save on fuel, it saves on mechanical costs because of the shifter installed on the trainer.

“We can teach the drivers of the different departments on how to shift based on the scenarios,” he said. “All of this without burning a drop of fuel and without having to worry about the costs of a broken transmission on mis-shifts.”

Lopez said the simulator is definitely not a video game. The software is capable of applying a variety of situations which would apply in real life.

“We can make a tire go flat, change day to night, add rain, and do a lot more,” Alfiler said, working the central software while invited guests, including Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. had a hand in working one of the vehicles. “If a vehicle crashes, there is even the sound effects to go along with that.”

To one side of the central station, Alfiler pointed out a “rabbit,” or a set of controls which allow the operator to control an injected variable such as another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or other driving obstacle.

During the scenario, the operator, or instructor, has the ability to watch all of the things being done by the driver and has the ability to stop and confer with the driver before resuming the scenario.

Westerman said while the primary simulator is based on a firetruck, the scenarios played out are controlled by the central computer and vehicles can range from an Sports Utility Vehicle to an 18-wheeler.

He added another console is built around a police cruiser to closely simulate a patrol vehicle.

L3 Communications, who built the driving simulator to specifications from the county, also builds a variety of other simulators including Icer Simulators, or a simulation from an airplane cockpit on icing situations at airports, Port Operations, or a simulation from inside a container loader for shipping containers, helicopter and fixed wing simulators, Perez said.

“It’s awesome,” Carvalho said following his scenario where he got a lot of “back seat driving” help from Westerman and other fire department trainers and included some close calls with other vehicles.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.