Virtual Reality technology has been used for quite a few things at this point even in its short lifespan of being on the market just for the last few years. While the main avenues of gaming and other media entertainment remain the largest pockets of how the tech is being used by consumers and businesses alike, there are handfuls of different ways that VR has been applied to the real world, from VR theme parks like the new Final Fantasy one that will be opening in Universal Studios Japan to using VR headsets to help hospital patients take their minds off of the pain they’re feeling. Samsung has even partnered with the education industry to help teach students about the human body.
Beyond this varied spread of uses for VR technology it was recently reported that Ubisoft had teamed up with Renault to combine the world of virtual reality with driverless cars, immersing the passenger that’s sitting in the driver’s seat in a world of wonder and virtual spaces. The beauty behind this particular partnership and project from Renault and Ubisoft is that the person in the car gets a unique experience each time they take a trip, and as shown in the video below the virtual experience uses data gathered by the sensors on the outside of the car to make things look original, so what the person sees with the headset on could be anything from gorgeous landscapes and scenery to sprawling urban cities of the future, full of color and vivid imagery.
Granted, this is merely one such experience that’s being put on by two companies and not something that is to be expected in commercially available driverless vehicles from the get go, though it’s possible that it could be by the time that driverless cars are expected to be on roads. Eventually it might be possible to have VR incorporated into autonomous cars, but before that can happen on a wide scale there are still lots of hurdles to overcome. Regulations need to be passed for the vehicles to be on the road beyond the testing that’s currently happening with them, plenty of safety tests still need to be passed as well, and to the point where doing something like wearing a VR headset while riding in a driverless car was actually acceptable and safe enough for the rider to do so. This project does pose the question though of whether or not VR in driverless car is something that could actually be a viable entertainment experience. Sure, it would help riders stay entertained and occupied during long commutes, and even short trips could allow for some form of VR entertainment, but it’s unclear how long it would take before something like this is actually a reality.
There are more things to take into account than just whether or not driverless cars would be safe enough to allow the person riding in them to put on a VR headset and close themselves off from the world for the duration of a trip. VR requires quite a bit of computing power in most cases, and in turn would likely require a decent data connection while in a stationary position let alone in one that is constant motion. That said it’s not too unlikely that 5G networks would be needed before this is something that could be implemented in driverless cars, as 5G network connections could provide immensely faster data speeds than what’s available now that could keep the car and the VR headset connected. Another thing to consider is whether or not consumers would feel comfortable enough engaging in such an experience. Putting those particular hurdles aside, should the safety factors and the necessary network requirements be met in addition to any ethical ones that might arise, being able to slip on a VR headset while taking a trip in a driverless car would definitely make the trip more fun, and could make it feel like a shorter trip as the experience would probably help pass the time. Now all that remains is to see if other companies pick up on Ubisoft and Renault’s partnership project and aim to work on something similar to offer in the future.