You could be forgiven for being a little bit fatigued by conversations about virtual reality. Perhaps more than any technology in recent memory, VR’s buzz has exceeded its actual utility. That is to say, we hear a great deal about it, but most of us aren’t getting much use out of it – at least not yet. That said, however, people with interest in driving on any level, from test driving new cars to engaging wit racing culture, may want to take a closer look at the various ways in which VR can and will integrate with auto industry and culture.
This idea doesn’t require too much of an explanation, because you can probably guess what it’s about. Driving instruction and VR are being combined, such that people learning to drive can potentially practice more scenarios than they ever could in a real car out on the road. It should never be a full sacrifice for road testing, as it’s important to get a feel for driving in a physical sense. But its’ entirely possible that VR simulations will be mixed into the standard driving instruction process over time.
This could ultimately be one of the most significant ways in which VR meshes with auto industries. Suffice it to say the test was driving a bunch of different cars is a pain, and as a result of most of us only ever test the cars we’ve already nearly decided on. As with driving instruction, there’s still something to be said for getting a physical feel for the road and how a car handles. But through VR, we could potentially gain the ability to at least get some idea of what it’s like to drive any number of different cars. Eventually, we could then narrow things down to one or two favorites to be tested out in person.
This is an idea that’s only just emerged over the last year or so, and it’s certainly an interesting one. Basically, VR is being used in various ways to simulate road situations and inform drivers about proper safety concerns. For instance, UPS has implemented a training system that will teach its young delivery drivers how to identify and avoid on-road hazards. We’ve also heard about a system that’s designed to make drivers and cyclists more aware of one another through VR training simulators. It’s fair to have doubts about whether programs like these will ever be broadly used if not mandated by companies, but they’re interesting nonetheless.
Virtual reality gaming is going to be the next big thing, even if it’s happening more slowly than some expected. And as one article wisely pointed out back in 2017, it’s the ability of these games to place us in new environments that ultimately wins us over. Now, combine that with the fact that driving is a particularly easy activity to simulate in VR, and it stands to reason a lot of just-for-fun driving simulators are on the way. Very soon, VR will involve all kinds of different games and applications designed to place us in new environments with new roads and new challenges.
Sticking with the idea of driving and racing simulators, we may well see VR factor into how we watch professional drivers also. Right now, when we tune in to auto races, we’re usually watching from a side angle or even a near bird’s eye view. But now imagine cameras mounted on dashboards or even fitted to drivers’ helmets, and imagine that their feeds were connected to VR. This is already possible (it’s how a lot of drone racing spectatorship works), and it could enable us to watch professional racing events in VR headsets from the perspective of the car or driver.