Detroit Auto Show attendees get virtually in the driver’s seat

[From The Detroit News, where the story includes many more images]

Simulator at Detroit Auto Show

Automakers put attendees virtually in the driver’s seat

By Tony Briscoe, The Detroit News
January 21, 2013

Detroit— The North American International Auto Show is letting consumers get a taste of what it’ll be like to be behind the wheel of many new models.

In the middle of the Ford Motor Co. show floor, people can test their racing skills in the virtual simulation of the brand’s sports technology of the Focus. Technicians strap volunteers into an elevated two-seat cockpit controlled by four mechanical legs that allow the drivers to feel every twist and turn as they compete for the best lap time.

This is the first time the Detroit show has seen the contraption, which spokesman Said Deep said will give the public a realistic test drive of the Focus.

“The Focus ST has 252 HP with an EcoBoost engine that is best-in-class fuel economy, so it offers true performance in both aspects, and we were thinking what better way to bring that to life than to show that in the simulator,” Deep said. “And if you can believe it or not, the performance is actually calibrated to exactly match the real thing.”

The simulations are part of what drew more than 100,000 to each of the auto show’s first two public days. “First day attendance was the strongest in eight years,” chairman Jim Seavitt said of Saturday’s 103,126 attendance total. Sunday’s attendance was 105,509.

Just days after General Motors Co. unveiled the 2014 Corvette Stingray at the Detroit Auto Show, “Grand Turismo 5” gave gamers an opportunity to virtually take a spin in the sports car. Chevrolet’s display features two arcade-style simulators for all who are interested in testing their luck on the virtual track with the Stingray’s estimated 450 horsepower, which can accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than four seconds.

“Getting behind the wheel of the all-new Corvette Stingray — the most powerful, most efficient and most sophisticated standard Corvette ever — is sure to be a thrilling experience,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet Global Marketing. “Through this unique collaboration with ‘Gran Turismo,’ Chevrolet is able, for the first time, to give performance car enthusiasts access to such an exclusive driving experience the day after the Corvette Stingray’s world debut.”

Chevrolet display manager Micha Rawlings said a GM design team designed the simulator pods with actual Stingray racing seats, so drivers can experience the car before its late summer release.

“Racers will get 3 minutes to go through as many laps as they can. I think we’ve had a good response,” Rawlings said.

On Saturday, the line for the simulator stretched around the display. It was a hit, especially with younger generations.

“I think it’s fun,” said Derek Neben, 21, a Michigan State University student. “I think it’s a good idea. It’s not as passive of an experience.”

Toyota features a video game test drive of its Prius with the Microsoft Kinect technology. The simulation is unique: there is no steering wheel or pedal, but the computer picks up on the virtual driver’s hand motions to pilot the vehicle.

Kia also had a third-person driving simulation where a driver can operate the Optima through a winding roadway, which will give the driver an idea of the vehicle’s handling, speed and other specs.

Kelly Hollister of Olivet said many of the interactives were great additions. “It keeps your interest up instead of just walking around and looking at a bunch of cars,” he said. “It lets you be a part of the show.”


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