Driving centres ask to delay virtual cabin requirement

November 24, 2022 - 07:36
Many driving training centers have continued to show their concerns over the regulation on purchasing virtual cabins worth billions of đồng for training drivers, claiming it would cause more financial burdens as they are still struggling to operate after COVID-19 pandemic.
A learner practises driving skills with a virtual driving cabin. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI – Many driving training centers are balking at regulation that requires them to purchase virtual cabins costing billions of đồng to train drivers, claiming it will cause more financial burdens as they are still struggling to operate after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Transport’s Circular 04/2022 stipulates that driving learners must have at least four hours of practice on virtual driving cabins.

Driving training centres must invest in virtual driving cabins or face being shut down by authorities.

The regulation was set to take effect in early July, but was extended to January after training centres complained that they needed more time to prepare.

However, they have asked for another extension as the deadline to purchase the virtual cabins is only a handful of weeks away.

Nguyễn Đức Hải, director of Đức Thịnh Automobile Driving Licensing and Testing Centre in Hà Nội’s Đông Anh District said that in recent years, the city has required stricter control of the quality of driving training in order to raise the quality of candidates awarded licences.

“Purchasing electronic cabins and software to serve the training process is an innovative solution for theory and practical tests, but there needs to be a roadmap for piloting these cabins before applying them,” he said.

Given that each set of cabins costs VNĐ400-500 million (US$16,000 - 20,000), Thịnh said each training centre would have to pay up to VNĐ10-15 billion ($401,000 - 602,000) for about 20-30 cabins to train about 1,000 students per month.

This is a large amount of money as many centres have not yet recovered from their financial difficulties after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The number of students has remarkably decreased in the past two years, leading to difficulties in funding revenue at driving training centres. It is not easy to spend billions of đồng to equip the cabins as it would put financial pressure on these centres,” he said.

Hải said the centres could increase driving training fees, but it must be a reasonable increase, he added.

Nguyễn Văn Toản, Chairman of the Members' Council of Đông Đô Driving Test Centre, one of the major driving test centers in northern Bắc Ninh Province, said virtual driving cabins are for additional practice only.

“Learning to drive needs to be practised in real situations. Some countries such as South Korea have applied the cabin model, but later abandoned it because it was not suitable,” he said.

Toản suggested that the Ministry of Transport direct the Road Administration of Vietnam to pilot virtual driving cabins at some State-owned driving training centres before applying it to everyone.

Nguyễn Văn Quyền, chairman of the Vietnam Automobile Transport Association, said although the Ministry of Transport has issued virtual driving cabin standards, there is no qualified cabin supplier available in the market.

“Currently, this device has not been tested to evaluate its efficiency,” he said, adding that electronic cabins had been imported and used about 20 years ago, but then were abandoned as they were ineffective.

According to Quyền, the cost for a set of virtual cabins was about VNĐ400-450 million ($16,094-18,100), equivalent to the amount of money for a car. The country currently has about 400 driving training centres, and the money for cabin investment would cost about VNĐ2 trillion ($80.4 million).

“It is necessary to delay the application of virtual cabins and conduct a pilot period. If the model is really effective, then it can be widely applied. This will avoid wasting hundreds of billions of đồng,” he stressed.

Nguyễn Hồng Đạt, deputy head of Hà Nội’s Department of Transport’s Vehicles and Drivers Management Office said that no centre has invested and installed electronic cabins so far.

“None of the centres has succeeded in getting the ministry’s approval for their cabin products. Therefore, the driving training centres are confused over where to buy proper electronic cabin equipment," he said.

Đạt said it would take time to evaluate the efficiency of virtual cabins.

All representatives of training centres expressed their desire to delay the mandatory installation of virtual cabins and to pilot the use of cabins at some training centres before their widespread application.

The ministry said it would choose a centre to pilot virtual cabins so equipment manufacturers would have enough time to test the device before January.

In addition, the Department of Roads of Vietnam would speed up the process of certifying products and announce enterprises with certified electronic cabin products on its website.

Lương Duyên Thống, head of the department’s Transport and Management of Vehicles Office, affirmed that virtual cabins for driver training was a mandatory business condition for driving training centres.

“With driving simulation software and equipment, students will practise skills and reactions in different weather and traffic conditions in order to improve traffic safety skills. Equipping driving simulation software and equipment into the training process is a solution to improve the quality of training,” he said. – VNS