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Toyota, Oculus VR Team up to Teach Teens About Distracted Driving

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Toyota and Oculus Rift are teaming up to teach young drivers how to drive more safely. The collaboration is an important tool for Toyota's TeenDrive365 program, which aims to provide first-time drivers a more immersive driving experience in a simulated environment. Drivers can learn how to drive better while faced with virtual distractions and decision-making situations.

While the program's target audience are the teens, it also aims to help parents in becoming a role model when it comes to displaying a safer driving behavior. This focus on parents is supported by a research done at Toyota's Collaborative Safety Research Center and UMTRI. According to the research, there is a significant correlation between the driving behaviors of parents and their teens. It further suggests that parents play the biggest influence on the teens' behavior behind the wheel.

"Oculus Rift provides a virtual reality driving experience that mirrors real life behind the wheel, giving us a powerful, one-of-a-kind way to show parents and teens how everyday distractions can affect their ability to drive safely," said Marjorie Schussel, corporate marketing director of Toyota.

In the demo, the driver sits on a stationary Toyota vehicle that has been set up by Toyota. Every aspect of driving such as using gas, brake and the steering wheel can be viewed in a virtual environment. The latter would include traffic, buildings, roadway obstacles and even people occupying the car's backseat.

To make it more realistic, the driver wears stereo headphones that are capable of bringing in "distracting" sounds such as sirens, ringing mobile devices, incoming text message alerts and annoying friends who would attempt to get any fraction of the driver's attention.

The distracted driving simulation offered by Toyota's TeenDrive365 is deemed far more superior than any other driving simulation of its kind made available to the public. With Oculus Rift's custom technology, the driver is introduced to a host of impressive features that make the simulated driving environment a real educational experience. These include a 360-degree head tracking system, 3D viewing, stretched virtual environment with a 100-degree field of view, and RealSpace 3D Audio.

Developed by Brightline Interactive, the Toyota TeenDrive365 distracted simulator with Oculus Rift will be available to the public free of charge at auto shows across the U.S. The full list of dates can be viewed at TeenDrive365.com.

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