Learning Manual On A Simulator

3 minute read


I was thinking about arcade racing simulators and how they don’t quite mimic a car mechanics well enough to teach you how to shift (i.e. you can’t drive a car with manual transmission in the arcade and then expect to drive home a manual on the road).

I was also thinking about how nice it would be if there was a place I could take a real car, without traffic, and be able to drive a lot of situations in a safe environment. That such a place doesn’t exist around me anymore.

My mind wandered and I remembered about what are in some fitness centers – bikes, treadmills or other machines hooked up to a monitor that displays a path that you move on possibly adapted with real world resistance of some sort. It’s a simple concept that got me on my way to an interesting solution for myself. The criteria for the solution being that I should be able to use the car that I really want to drive as the tool to learn to drive – however that may be.

The idea revolves around a modified dynamometer, a computer interface and modified racing game of some sorts. You may have seen a dyno before if you’ve gotten an emissions check or more likely on tv. Basically the drive wheels of a car are driven on to a cylinder which then allows the car to bring itself up to speed without moving anywhere.

The second piece of this puzzle, yet unsolved (only because I can’t modify the car based on my requirements) would be to allow the steering to turn and be measured. If the car could be modified this could be something attached to the axles, or the steering wheel, or some other simple modification to monitor the amount of turn. Maybe something as simple as “Wii remote technology” could be attached to the steering wheel.

The final piece would be a very simple interface to the dyno (already exists for automotive data collection) as well as the steering connected to a computer (and game). This would be used to gather mph data and direction. All this information would be feed into a modified racing game which uses the outputs of the custom interface to register speed and direction of the vehicle in the simulator to the person in the real vehicle. What this amounts to is a place you can take your car, park, and then continue to drive. The best part of it is you have all the time in the world (or gas in your tank) to practice because all the traffic is just simulated in a perfectly safe environment.

Much more could be added to this to make it feel even more real (I’m quickly thinking of things like tilting the x and y axis of the car to simulate hills and screens that sit up against all windows for better virtual reality). Although, I’m not sure what more would be necessary as this solution is designed to teach you to drive a manual transmission and nothing more. As it stands, I think it’s a worthwhile invention.

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