Training the next generation transportation workforce

Missouri Department of Transportation employees will receive more realistic work zone inspection training using virtual reality thanks to a Mizzou engineering team.

a woman with a stop sign in a work zone

Sept. 21, 2021

A University of Missouri engineering team is working to provide more realistic work zone inspection training for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) using virtual reality (VR). Praveen Edara, chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is leading the project, which received funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s Accelerated Market Readiness Program earlier this year. This two-year $460,238 grant will help reimagine training for the next generation of the transportation workforce.

Edara and his team developed an interactive training platform using real work zone scenarios. The platform places a trainee in a simulated vehicle that moves through a construction zone and asks them to identify problems such as deficient signs, compliance issues or other hazards. Workers can experience the simulation using VR headsets, 360 videos or cardboard VR viewers that work with mobile devices.

“Instead of going out in the field, this is a safer way to train them in a controlled environment while still giving them a realistic experience,” Edara said.

Those scenarios will include various situations such as work zones with human flaggers, nighttime construction and high-traffic interstates. All scenarios will be modeled using field data and DOT traffic control plans.

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