Ford already boasts has the most five-star crash rated cars and trucks of any automaker, and now the automaker is looking to take the next step by avoiding crashes all together. Technologies like adaptive cruise control, blind spot detectors, and traffic alert will help prevent collisions from ever happening, but testing these technologies can be dangerous. For that reason, Ford uses a simulator to present real-life driving conditions to real drivers without any risk of accident or injury.
Ford's Virtual Test Track Experiment, or VIRTTEX, is a very realistic simulator that gives advanced technology researchers real driving data to help refine safety technology. The large spherical bubble houses a full-size Taurus-X that is loaded with computers and cameras. The driver is surrounded by video screens and five projectors that show front, side and rear views, making the test driver feel like they're driving a real car. Massive hydraulic lifts can move VIRTTEX up, down, and side to side by up to 12 feet to aid in the sensation of real driving. VIRTTEX can also simulating braking, lane changes, and even crashes.
We took a spin in VIRTTEX to test Ford's Forward Collision Warning system, which displays a series of red lights on the dashboard and a loud warning whenever its radar senses a potential accident. Ford is using the simulator to amass data on driver reactions, test different warning sounds, and refine the visual cues of the system. Hit the jump to see how we did in VIRTTEX, and then check out Ford's short video as well.