Researchers and DMV testing driving simulator as alternative to in-car driving tests

[From WVIR NBC 29, where the story includes a 2:01 minute video; for more information see NewsPlex and the UVA Health System]

UVA Researchers Testing Virtual Driving Simulator at DMV

December 17, 2012

The University of Virginia is looking for hundreds of volunteer drivers to get behind the virtual wheel. It’s part of a plan to see if the program can be used one day as an alternative to in-car driving tests.

Researchers at UVA’s School of Medicine are tracking data from the virtual reality driving simulator. They want to see if it is effective and fair, as it could be the new way you take a driving test in Virginia.

Research assistant Gabriel Camacho said, “Being a simulator, it’s unbiased and it’s objective, and we think that’s important for someone getting their license.”

Over the next year, researchers at UVA’s School of Medicine are putting people’s driving skills to the test and tracking the information. The simulator takes about 90 minutes and tests a driver’s vision, motor skills and working memory.

“So the ability to go down the road and remember the signs you’ve seen on the side and do the same thing with potholes,” said Camacho.

Getting into the simulator, which has brake pedals, gas pedals and a steering wheel, is like getting into a real car. Sam Kozura took the simulator for a spin Monday. In the driver’s seat, he says it’s close to actually being out on the road.

“Everything is realistic from the road bouncing right now [as he drives], so it’s letting you know that everything’s not flat,” Kozura said.

The simulator also tests tactical driving on different types of virtual roads. In reality, the virtual driving test is kind of fun.

Kozura said, “If this was like an Xbox game in your house, I think you’d have your friends over all the time. That’s for sure.”

The simulation is free and completely confidential. It doesn’t affect your driver’s license or insurance.  You can take the test at the Department of Motor Vehicles office on Pantops Mountain.

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