Lexus has just begun running a new television ad touting its state-of-the-art driving simulator. While this 30-second exercise does provide a quick look at one very impressive bit of technology in action, there's a lot more to the Lexus system than gets presented in that brief encounter.
Housed in a hanger-like building the size of a football field at the company's research campus in Higashi Fuji, Japan, this ultimate exercise in automotive virtual reality is billed as the largest and most advanced driving simulator in the world. Based on our own experiences with numerous other manufacturers' simulator systems, that claim appears to be fully justified. The heart of the Lexus simulator is a series of integrated full-motion tracks that are connected to a 56x15-foot domed structure supported by a three-axis hexapod system. Inside the dome sits an actual Lexus vehicle whose controls are all fully integrated into the simulator's computerized operating system. Although not often called upon to operate in at-the-limit mode, Lexus says it has the capability to effectively simulate vehicle speeds of up to 186 mph and mimic up to 330 degrees of turning motion.
Once the simulator swings into action, the driver sees, hears and, in effect, feels the environment around the vehicle via a super-detailed 360-degree high-definition display that even includes receding elements in the side and rearview mirrors. With the ability to tilt, tip, accelerate and brake in real-time response to inputs, the simulator provides Lexus engineers with a comprehensive database of information on how individuals are most likely to behave when faced with various high-stress situations that can occur behind the wheel. That knowledge helps foster and accelerate development of even more effective active and passive safety devices.
"In our latest television spot, we are inviting consumers into our state-of-the-art testing facility for a behind-the-scenes look at the Lexus driving simulator to see this revolutionary machine in action," states Dave Nordstrom, vice president of marketing for Lexus. "It's a real-life example of our innovation and dedication to bringing customers the future first."