A realistic driving simulator for researching driver's habits and reactions has been launched by Toyota at its Higashifuji Technical Centre in Japan.
The simulator (below) features an automatic Lexus LS460 car positioned on a platform inside a 4.5m high, 7.1m-diameter dome.
The dome can be moved by computer control around an area the size of four tennis courts. The inside acts as a 360º video screen that gives the driver the illusion of a real driving environment.
'It could be said that the Toyota driving simulator exceeds the performance characteristics of the simulator at the US road and traffic safety agency (NHTSA),' said a Toyota spokesperson.
The maximum speed within the dome is 22km/hr but Toyota said it is possible for the driver to feel as if he is driving at more than 300km/hr.
The realistic acceleration and deceleration is said to be replicated by sound effects and the wide mobility and vibration ranges (the Toyota simulator can vibrate 50mm up or down, compared with the NHTSA simulator, which only vibrates 5mm up or down) of the equipment.
Even drunk driving effects can be simulated using a rotating turntable in the dome, which can rotate a maximum of 330º in either direction, and the dome has a maximum tilt capacity of 25º.
The simulator took four and a half years to complete. As well as helping Toyota analyse driving characteristics under conditions such as fatigue, the inventors hope to use it for research and development of new safety technology systems for cars.