It isn’t a car, it isn’t a crossover vehicle and it’s not an SUV. It isn’t gasoline powered, it isn’t a hybrid and it doesn’t run on diesel. You can’t even buy it, unless you’ve got a bank balance on par with Bill Gates. So what is it, and why is Lexus spending money to promote it?
“It” is the world’s most advanced driving simulator, located in Higashifuji, Japan and developed by Lexus to test vehicle handling and safety systems in a controlled environment. Drivers experience a 360 degree panoramic view, including accurate images projected into side and rear view mirrors. The pod tilts up to simulate acceleration, and down to simulate braking. It moves and tilts side to side to simulate cornering, and can portray speeds up to 186 miles per hour. The system can be used to capture data on driver behavior and reaction time, which reflects the ultimate purpose behind the simulator: build a car that will never have an accident. That may be more than slightly ambitious, since you can’t control the behavior of those around you on the road. Still, this is a great idea, and I’m surprised that more automakers don’t make use of advanced simulators for R&D.
Beyond new car development, the potential for advanced simulators is endless. Imagine driver training, where students are safely able to experience things like sudden oversteer on black ice, or a tire failure at speed. How about advanced driver training for first responders or security personnel? How about driver retesting above a threshold age?
I know I’m dreaming here, since time in simulators like this costs big money. Still, the technology will become more affordable over time, and airlines have embraced simulator training for years. If it builds a safer car or trains a safer driver, I’m all for it.