Vanderbilt engineers have developed a driving simulator they hope will help teenagers learn to drive. Young drivers navigate through a video-game-like virtual reality simulation while sensors monitor their heart rate, breathing, brain waves, and eye motion. Based on that data, the simulation adapts to give the driver more practice in areas of weakness or in stress-filled situations such as pedestrians crossing or driving in the rain.

The researchers designed this simulator especially for young people with disabilities such as autism and ADHD. The data from the virtual driving experience shows the teenagers when and where their concentration or focus drifted, which can help them adapt their behavior. It can also indicate when they are ready to drive on the road.

While teens report decreased anxiety from participating in the simulation, the real test of its effectiveness will be in whether the skills mastered in virtual reality will translate to real-life driving. Do you think this simulator provides an authentic learning opportunity for future drivers? How could similar technologies be used in other fields? Join the ongoing conversation on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion:

@02:32 Sara Hardman: I think it could help establish some of the foundational skills necessary for driving and teach teens what they need to focus on before hitting the actual roads. In the end, actual driving education is also important, but I think setting up basic skills beforehand will make actual driving easier to manage.

@02:32 Dallas Milanovich: My big fear with technology definitely comes in the transfer of skills - all sorts of us grew up playing car racing video games where we theoretically learned how to drive, but I need significantly more evidence to convince me that this sort of virtual driving functions the same as actual driving.