A short while ago, TechCrunch piled into a car, and drove at moderate pace to San Jose, just so that we could drive much more quickly.
Recently opened on the other end of the Bay is the Driver Simulation and Vehicle Systems Lab, or SimLab for short. The contraption is a complex driving simulation that puts the user inside an actual car that is wrapped, externally, by a 220-degree screen. The effect is that the driver is immersed in a variable driving experience that is immediately fun to play with.
Of course, SimLab is not designed to be a video game, fun or not. Instead, the groups behind SimLab — ProspectSV and fkaSV — have a slightly larger vision. SimLab is open to companies of every sort and size, provided, I presume, that they are working on automotive technology.
The desired effect is that the pace of technological innovation on cars by non-major automotive giants — OAMs? — and that the field becomes slightly more democratized.
Okay, now for the fun stuff.
A splendid BMW constitutes the bulk of the simulator. My test began with my car placed, as it were, on the small road leading onto a highway. Naturally, I floored the gas, an automatic, and shot to around 160 miles per hour.
As it turns out, I am not a particularly strong driver. I actually knew that before, but my generally poor steering was amplified by velocity. To have some fun, I took the car the wrong way down the highway, turning my task of not crashing into other cars something even more challenging.
You can pass through cars in SimLab, but can’t wander too far off the road. Akin to Mario Kart, stray and you are placed back onto the road by the system.
There are more simulations, of course, including a race track. This simulation was harder than the highway, as it involved lots of turns and braking. I proved in short order that I should probably stay behind the keyboard and not the wheel.
Not A Wearable
When it comes to hardware, most people in our current Silicon Valley generation think about wearables, or small electronics. Less focus, I think, is put onto hardware that could, say, go into a new generation of cars. I’m not trying to be mean, but at the same time, diversity is not a sin.
It will be interesting to watch two things, regarding SimLab: How many different companies end up taking advantage of its simulator and how quickly. We’ll check back with the team in a few months to find out.
Until then, drive on the correct side of the highway.