Simulators are the first of their kind in the United States
Created by some of the same engineers that developed the flight simulators for the aeronautics industry, Virage Simulation Inc. has taken the danger out of learning to drive with two new, state-of-the-art driving simulators located in the National Corvette Museum. The simulators are designed to present a limitless number of scenarios that drivers can face… challenging situations on city streets and freeways and in all kinds of weather conditions. The National Corvette Museum purchased and installed the simulators as a permanent addition to the Museum, furthering the Museum’s mission of educating the public and making a positive impact in the community.
Based in Montreal, Canada, Virage creates simulators that are so realistic that student drivers in Canada can earn drivers education hours by training with them. When the seatbelt is secured and the key is turned, the dashboard lights up and drivers can feel and hear the virtual engine running. The driving experience is so authentic that drivers will feel the vibration of the pavement under their virtual tires, and the weight of the car shift as the wheel is turned.
“A realistic cockpit was essential,” says Danny Grenier, Chief Software Architect for the system. “We wanted to duplicate the driving experience as closely as possible for students so that they could really get a feel for what it is like to be on the road.”The simulators are so real, in fact, that warnings of motion sickness are posted, and all drivers must have at least a learner’s permit to operate the equipment. Five educational programs are offered on the simulators, including Emergency Driving Situations; Driving Under the Influence; Speed, Road Conditions and Stopping Distances; Hazard Perception and Fuel Efficient Driving.
“We can do things with this system that you just cannot duplicate in real life. We can simulate a car coming into your lane, or a blow out, or brake failure and teach students how to react properly in a way that minimizes the risk of injury,” said Dr. Pierro Hirsch, Road Safety Research and Driver Training Program Development Manager for Virage. “We can replay these events if we need to and practice them, allowing students to face the situations without the consequences. We can rehearse them until the proper response comes naturally.”
Not only are the simulators a powerful training tool for student drivers, but it also has classroom applications as well. With a few clicks, the panoramic view of the road switches into a PowerPoint presentation on the effects of driving while intoxicated.
Drivers can wear a special set of goggles that skews their vision similarly to the way that alcohol does. “People are amazed when they do this exercise and get to see for themselves what the effects of alcohol are on the system. What really makes the point is when we set the simulator to duplicate the impaired driving experience.” The simulator adjusts itself to mimic impaired reaction time of an intoxicated driver, over-compensating, and over braking, delaying and speeding up the actions of the driver.
Another useful function of the simulator is the “Eco-Driver” training feature. With this program, drivers are challenged to change their driving styles in such a way that promotes good fuel economy by learning how to accelerate properly and time their stops more precisely. “What is interesting,” Dr. Hirsch notes, “is that often students will get to their destinations just as quickly as another will while saving fuel at the same time.”
The simulators will serve as an important tool to help educate drivers of all ages on safe driving and ultimately make our roads safer by helping to prevent accidents, reduce injuries and ultimately save lives. Statistics indicate that nearly 5,000 young people die in car crashes every year and another 300,000 teens are injured in car crashes annually. New methods of teaching driver safety is imperative to ensure teens are given the best chance to survive their early, and most risky, driving experiences.
“We are extremely fortunate to have the only simulators of this kind in the U.S.,” said Chris Sweeney, Tours and Admissions Supervisor for the Museum. “They will give us the opportunity to educate drivers of all ages and experience levels – providing useful knowledge and a safe learning environment for students to develop their driving skills.” The simulators are open to Museum visitors from 8am until 4:30pm daily at no additional charge. Visitors can reserve a 15-minute slot at admissions. Simulators are also available for private rental for a fee during or after hours and anyone interested can contact the Admissions team to schedule a time.
The National Corvette Museum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 6-16, $8 for seniors and $25 for a family. The Museum is located at Exit 28 off I-65 in Bowling Green, KY. For more information on the National Corvette Museum, visit our website at: http://www.corvettemuseum.org/ or call (800) 53-VETTE (83883).For more information about the Driving Simulators visit: http://www.viragesimulation.com/.
For images of the driving simulators, please visit: http://picasaweb.google.com/corvettemuseum/DrivingSimulators#High res versions can be obtained by contacting Katie Frassinelli.