Using virtual reality to train delivery drivers is nuts, but it’s also the future

By Oliver Smith 16 August 2017

Yes, it's a publicity stunt.

Starting this September UPS will start using virtual reality to better train its new delivery drivers on what life will be like once they hit the streets.

Don’t be fooled, there’s definitely a hint of a publicity stunt in the announcement, only reinforced by UPS CIO Juan Perez who says 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.”

There’s also a lavishly produced video demonstrating the lengths UPS goes to train its drivers – including one scene that shows what I can only assume is a driver suspended from the ceiling while trying to walk on fake ice… bizarre.

But behind the spin, news that yet another company is embracing VR to train its employees is the latest part of a growing trend.

Old dog, new tricks

Many firms, especially those whose staff training can be painfully expensive, see virtual reality as a great way to streamline their training.

Last year The Memo revealed how London Underground will use VR to train its drivers without the need for them to spend as many hours in an actual train.

Airlines have long used simulators to train their pilots, and virtual reality is the logical next step with a number of airlines like Virgin Atlantic are already embracing it.

The US military is working with a company called Intelligent Decisions to train its troops in virtual conflicts, and even Walmart is dabbling with the tech, working with a firm called Strivr to build virtual experiences to train its new managers.

It’s clear, if you have a large workforce or your staff operate large or dangerous machinery, investing in a few virtual reality headsets is a smart way to safely ensure they get the best training possible.

Make no mistake, UPS using VR is part of a publicity stunt, but it’s also what delivery driver training will look like in the future, and is probably what learning to drive will look like for everyone one day.

VR may be a bandwagon that every company wants to jump on, but at least it’s one going in the right direction.