Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I learned how to drive in a VR traffic school

It’s a plug and play system, with a customizable seat and base, that can be tweaked to suit any model of car or truck. On top of that, a VR headset immerses you in this virtual world. The cockpit is designed on your average mid-range saloon, even down to the fully-rendered back seats. A comforting, authoritative voice then began taking me through my paces.

The test is pretty basic, just getting you through cones, lane changes and emergency stops. As much as it looks and feels like a video game, it isn’t, but it borrows plenty of visual elements from titles like Forza. The system, when used on a regular basis, will also begin to analyze your driving. After a while, you’ll be told about your issues, and be given tips on how to improve.

The company was co-founded by race car driver Dominic Dobson, who wanted to practice races like Pikes Peak. That particular hillclimb is not available the rest of the year, so he built a simulator to fill in the gap. Judging by his success — he won in his class that year — it’s clear that there’s some utility to the system. But it’s still never going to replace the real thing, especially since there’s no other virtual cars, with their terrible drivers, in the sim.

But there’s clearly going to be some demand for these $100,000 machines. Oregon’s police department is one such customer, which uses its simulator to train its elite drivers. And, who knows, give it a decade, and maybe we’ll see all of the traffic schools disappear in favor of these machines.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

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