Simulator Puts You Behind The Virtual Wheel

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Simulator Puts You Behind The Virtual Wheel

How good of a driver do you think you are?

Reported by Julie Bercik on

How good of a driver do you think you are?

New technology at the University of Virginia can tell you exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are behind the wheel. The driving simulator turns everyday roads into a virtual reality, and driving this simulator is actually a lot more difficult than you think.

It puts you right in the middle of driving situations that you will run into right here in Charlottesville. The purpose of it is to evaluate how well an individual drives, but it also helps determine whether drivers with medical conditions are still fit to be on the road. Equipped with all the controls and gears your car has, the simulator is a realistic experience. You can drive on old Lynchburg Road, or Interstate 64.

"They also have un-signaled sudden stops," said Virginia Driving Safety Lab Director Dr. Daniel Cox. "Where a car suddenly from the left lane pulls into your lane with no signal. Or a parked car as you're approaching pulls out in front of you."

And if you have to slam on the brakes, you will experience the effects.

"This will lurch forward when you brake suddenly," explained Cox. "Or you'll be pushed back into your seat when you accelerate."

The simulator is designed to train anxious drivers, putting them in dangerous scenarios without exposing them to any real danger. It also serves as a rehabilitation tool.

"Patients who have had strokes, who have had traumatic brain injury," Cox said.

Based on the results, doctors can then determine if a patient should be behind the wheel.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, this is actually the second generation of the simulator.

"Research that takes place here gets disseminated worldwide and has had worldwide impacts," Cox added.

The driving safety lab is now accepting patients. It cost $300 to participate. Results will not be given to the Department of Motor Vehicles. That $300 fee covers up to four sessions, and the cost is not covered by insurance.

For more information about the simulator, you can call the Virginia Driving Safety Lab at UVA at 434-924-5913.

Virginia Driving Safety Center of Excellence Brochure