Learning to drive is a massively cultural experience, one that shifts nearly every generation in accordance with the technological and social climate.
Back in the day, you learned to drive as soon as you were tall enough to see over the steering wheel, paying no mind to permits or other modern legalities. If you’re like me, your first experience was filled with burnt clutches, lots of stalling, and endless loops of the cul-de-sac.
Toyota’s program uses an Oculus Rift to virtually place young motorists in a 3D driving world. Sitting behind the wheel of a real (and parked) car, the tech puts drivers out on the road, adding in disturbances like traffic and radio noises, text messages, and even artificial passengers. The brand announced the simulator at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.
“During the simulation, you are challenged to drive safely using the car’s steering wheel and pedals, while navigating a series of common distractions,” Toyota says. “Lose your focus and you’ll experience the consequences of distracted driving within the virtual setting. But, hopefully, you’ll come away a little wiser about what it takes to be safe behind the wheel.”
Pilots, astronauts, and military servicemen have been using virtual reality simulators to mimic occupational conditions for years, so it only makes sense to bring that philosophy to the swarm of youths that will be soon swerving up and down our streets.
Toyota says TeenDrive365 is the first application of Oculus Rift tech for educational driving purposes, so no, endless hours of Mario Kart don’t count.
A video of the experience can be found here.