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Grab wheel, take a spin on the I*SIM simulator

SHARE Grab wheel, take a spin on the I*SIM simulator

The streets were virtually deserted.

Even though it was midafternoon, I had probably only seen three or four cars during the past five minutes as I drove aimlessly around the downtown area.As I came upon the next cross street, I felt confident that I could safely ignore the stop sign at the corner.

But even as I began my left-hand slide through the intersection, I knew I had made a mistake. There, rumbling toward me, was one of those stupid mass transit buses; I was toast.

I shrunk back from the steering wheel and waited for the impact, even as I hit the brakes.

But no impact came.

Luckily for me, that part of the simulator had not been turned on for my test drive.

This test drive occurred shortly after I recently stopped by Murray-based I*SIM Corp. to check out its soon-to-be-released driving simulator.

Since its founding in 1994, I*SIM has been working on perfecting the technology behind its high-performance driving simulators.

Unlike virtually all other driving simulators in the world today, I*SIM's Century Series simulators are designed to create as realistic a driving experience as possible.

This means starting with the actual cab of a police car, an 18-wheeler or some other wheeled vehicle. I*SIM then mounts the cab on a roll & pitch platform supported by electro-mechanical lifts tied into a Windows-based computer system.

Through the computer, an operator can then select a database containing various driving terrain and conditions, as well as "throw" different challenges at a driver mid-simulation, such as a tire blowout.

The road images are then projected a mere two meters from the driver onto a screen that has a viewing area of up to 180 degrees.

The result is that the I*SIM driving simulator literally "tricks" your brain into believing you are driving a car.

When it comes to training professional drivers in the law enforcement, trucking, military and emergency vehicle markets, it's a lot safer and cheaper to put someone in a realistic simulator vs. letting them loose on the streets.

According to Reginald Welles, company president and CEO, the fully tricked out I*SIM simulator can do just about anything - imitate running over a curb, a power slide, running into a bus - virtually anything a wheeled vehicle can do.

"The more real-world elements you put in the synthetic environment, the better the acceptance," Welles said in the Sept. 30, 1996, issue of Transport Topics. "The driver can tell if something is missing."

The brain can also tell if something is not right.

After five to 10 minutes of trying out the simulator, I realized that I felt flushed and a little bit queasy.

I stopped the vehicle, exited the cab and the simulator and walked out into the brightness of the interior of I*SIM's offices.

"So how long will I feel nauseous?" I asked.

"Oh, that's simulator sickness," Welles responded. "It's pretty common if your brain is receiving conflicting messages."

I then remembered Welles and a colleague talking to me while they stood outside the cab window as I drove down the simulated city streets at 20 to 30 miles per hour. Sounded like a definite example of conflicting messages to me.

Luckily for me I didn't actually lose my lunch or anything gross like that. And 15 minutes later the discomfort I had felt was just a memory.

But the realism of the test drive, coupled with the relatively low starting price of $150,000, has apparently attracted a lot attention from around the world to Murray, Utah.

And if Welles and his associates have anything to say about it, our highways and roads will soon be a lot safer due to the effectiveness of the I*SIM driving simulators.