You wouldn’t expect virtual reality and driving a car to have anything in common. As a matter of fact, though, it seems that virtual reality-based video games now offer inexperienced drivers safe outlets to practice their driving and that the use of these programs will become more commonplace in the next few years.
Virtual reality and driving: unlikely companions
The rise of virtual reality over the past several years has led to advances in a number of industrial fields. The field that seemed most excited about the debut of virtual reality was, first and foremost, the video game industry. Virtual reality means that video games can be more immersive, more engaging, and that gamers everywhere can take another step towards the all-encompassing gaming experience that they so crave.
That said, VR gaming translates reasonably well into unexpected skills areas. How so? Well, while it was doubtlessly not their original purpose, some driving video games are nowadays helping teenagers and disabled adults learn better driving skills or how to drive in the first place.
This isn’t a matter of a few one-off successes, either. VR has a lot to offer countries around the world in terms of road safety, as it offers inexperienced drivers a harmless environment in which they can practice their ability to drive. Not only that, but the versatility of VR allows these burgeoning drivers to do their practice from the comfort of their homes.
With that in mind, what programs, specifically, are helping drivers grow more comfortable on the road, and how are those drivers developing driving skills?
Urban and rural driving experiences
There are a number of virtual reality video games that allow inexperienced drivers to get behind the wheel of a sports car or racing car for the first time in their lives.
While these games are quite a bit of fun, they’re not precisely the kind of games that are designed to teach a person how to drive.
That said, intention isn’t everything. A number of these games, especially when paired with virtual reality, make drivers of all ages go through the normal pace of operating a car.
It’s games like City Car Driver, though, that are more deliberate in their educational purpose. City Car Driver operates on a mission-system, like Grand Theft Auto or a more traditional racing game. Instead of having to beat an opponent on a difficult track or giving into your road rage, though, drivers in City Car Driver need to safely manoeuvre through urban and rural traffic.
The benefits of the car game
So, is city car driver a thrill-seeker’s game? Maybe not. However, because the game allows you to choose the country you’re driving through – be it the UK, Australia, or Russia – you can familiarise yourself with driving laws from around the world while practising your ability to parallel park and monitor traffic.
The game also comes with a free driving mode that enables you to practice driving in different types of weather or to operate within the bounds of a license points system. You can even practice manual and automatic driving without having to risk grinding a real-life engine! You can’t experiment with this many types of different driving styles in real life, which adds a real appeal to the power of VR.
Machine learning and VR driving games
Not only do you have the opportunity to use games like City Car Driver to practice your ability to drive on a number of types of cars, but games like it can better familiarise themselves with your style of driving and help break you of bad habits. One such came, as co-founded by race-car driver Dominic Dobson, uses machine learning in order to give individual drivers tips on how to more safely manoeuvre on the road.
This is the same kind of personal attention you can get while taking a driver’s education course, but through VR, you don’t have to worry about getting in a real-time accident with a car you don’t own.
Conquering distracted driving
There are even VR games available that expose young or inexperienced drivers to uncomfortable driving situations and that promote road safety. These include driving while distracted or driving while intoxicated.
Why invest in games like these? Well, VR games that expose drivers to the risk of driving while distracted or drunk allow those drivers to better understand what kind of consequences they may face if they are intoxicated or distracted while on a real roadway.
Drunk driving and crash exposure
Take Decisions, another driving-based VR game, for example. This 360-degree game exposes drivers to an alcohol-related, heads on car accident that they only experience through a VR headset. This game shows drivers the cause of the accident and has them live through each moment of it.
Is this a scare tactic to keep drivers from drinking and driving? Yes. Is it necessary? Also yes. As of 2017, over 7.5 thousand people died due to an alcohol-related accident in the UK. If games like Decisions can eliminate some of those accidents, then the roads of the country will be a little bit safer for everyone.
Will VR driver’s education ever replace the real thing? Probably not. But the ways in which VR can change how people drive throughout the UK are promising and it’s worthwhile to explore the benefits of the practice.