At this point in time, it requires a lot of trust just to get into a driverless car and go for a ride. But how would you feel jumping into a driverless car and then putting on a VR headset?
As terrifying as that sounds, that’s exactly what videogame publisher Ubisoft is working on in partnership with Renault. The latter company’s autonomous SYMBIOZ Demo Car project debuted last month, taking select members of the press out on test drives. Not content with simply following the roads at over 65mph with no one touching the steering wheel, though, the demo provides a VR experience for ‘drivers’ to enjoy during the journey. A safety driver was on-hand just in case any problems arose, though.
When users put on the Oculus Rift headset they see an experience that’s synced up with the car’s data, dictating their speed and passage throughout the journey. They then drive through impossible landscapes, including sci-fi cities and, worryingly, what appears to be a mid-air race over the treetops. The experience can even use the car’s cameras to show passing vehicles within the VR, alleviating some of the concern.
The idea is to take your mind off of the long drive ahead of you and start enjoying yourself but, frankly, the idea of obscuring your vision as you put all your trust in a driverless car is a leap of faith too far right now, at least for us. What if there’s a sudden obstruction in the road and you screech to a stop within VR? Can you imagine anything more traumatizing?
This isn’t Renault’s vision of 2019, though; it doesn’t envision the autonomous revolution arriving until 2025. Perhaps by then we’ll feel a little bit better about doing something so terrifying.