The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) has signed a deal with Bloemfontein-based driver simulator company Afsim that sees the CDC becoming the sole distributor of the innovative, cross-spectrum driver simulators in the country.
The successful implementation of the CDC’s learner driver training programme, using Afsim’s pioneering driver simulator system to compliment practical, on-the-road training has yielded positive results for both drivers and the organisation, including the new commercial agreement.
This agreement, signed in May this year, allows the CDC to use its successful implementation of the simulator training to pursue widespread marketing and distribution of the product to its extensive stakeholder network, with Afsim as the supplier and providing the necessary technical support, research and development.
This approach is in line with the CDC’s objectives to enhance training, skills and socio-economic development in the Eastern Cape and South Africa in general.
“The driver simulators are a powerful enabling tool that has spinoffs into the health and safety sector,” said Ayanda Vilakazi, CDC marketing and communications head. “Also the deal sees Coega supporting a local supplier industry development in the process enabling the growth of this ground-breaking industry in South Africa.”
According to Vilakazi, the CDC’s investment in the simulation-based training is based on the benefits of the programme, which include significant cost savings, improved safety, more effective use of controls, and a much wider range of exposure to hazardous driving conditions.
The learner driver programme, offered by the CDC, benefits more than 500 unemployed youth annually, helping them gain a driver’s licence – a hurdle which often stands in the way of them seizing opportunities or even entering the job market.
Vilakazi said although it is the accepted norm for a learner driver to gain experiences on a public road, it is extremely dangerous. ”Simulator training has proven to be a very cost effective and safe alternative,” he said adding that it should also not be the last step in obtaining a license.
“Many potential learners have never sat behind a steering wheel, let alone have any driving experience. It is essential that these individuals spend time on simulators to gain confidence before they drive on a public road. A driver’s licence is the one aspect that really prepares individuals for the employment market,” said Vilakazi.
Driver simulator manufacturer, Afsim, said it had a theory that driver training does not favour first time drivers. “Where do novice drivers obtain driving skills before they start driving on public roads,” said Marelize Labuschagne of Afsim. “When the CDC recognised this major barrier to youth development they launched a driver training programme that incorporated simulators as one of the key starting points in a driver journey. This is changing the lives and first-time driving experiences of the youth in the Eastern Cape.”
But the CDC believes it does not have to stop there, with plans on the table to introduce the simulators to higher education institutions, training facilities, companies and government departments country-wide, as a tool for training everyone regular drivers through to drivers in specialised fields, such as agriculture and truck driving. There is also a unique simulator geared for people with disabilities.
The simulators are on sale through the CDC and retail at R 73,450.00 excluding VAT for a single sedan simulator.
The Afsim simulators are compliant with the K53 driving curriculum, and cover the modules of identification of components, pre-trip inspection, starting procedures, moving-off and changing gears, handling of vehicle (hand-eye co-ordination exercises), parallel parking, alley docking, turn in the road, incline start, highway driving (with different weather conditions), city driving in basic and advance mode and a yard summary. A progress report is also generated after the completion of each module for the benefit of the user of the driver simulator.
The sizeable fleet of driver simulators acquired by the CDC include 40 single simulators currently in Port Elizabeth, of which 36 is awaiting distribution, three single simulators in East London and a single simulator in Alice. The CDC also owns four mobile simulator platforms each equipped with four simulators on board, as well as two learner licence platforms with ten learner licence terminals in each, operating throughout the province.
This fleet will be used by the CDC to support three of its flagship programmes, which include the learner driver programme, the Mathematics and Science outreach programme, the mobile artisan training programme; and the construction plant operator training programme.
All of these programmes operate in the rural Eastern Cape, and the problem they seek to overcome is the same: a lack of adequately equipped training facilities, specifically, laboratories, workshops and equipment typical of rural areas in South Africa.
Two of the successful driver simulator users, father and son, Patrick and Asanda Modise from Bluewater Bay, both passed their drivers licence tests after undergoing the drivers training at the CDC. Patrick had six failed attempts before he joined the CDC drivers training programme, and is now a licensed driver the first time round.
“It is a blessing to the unemployed people of Nelson Mandela Bay to have this important service offered by Coega. We are eternally grateful for the opportunity that has been provided to our family through Coega,” said Patrick.
His son, Asanda, said the best part of his drivers training was practising on the driver simulators before embarking on 20 ‘on the road’ lessons. “People need to understand how important it is to do the simulator training before you actually venture out onto the road because it really helped me to get more comfortable and better acquainted with driving and the skills that go along with it,” said Asanda.
The CDC also facilitates the distribution of the driver simulators, and the products can be viewed with permission on sites busy with training.