The Crashed Car Showroom is a temporary storefront in Sydney conceived by the NRMA Insurance Research Centre. As its name implies, it's dedicated to road safety and the dangers of driving via an assortment of technological displays -- including a crash test dummy simulator that straps you into a hydraulic car while wearing an Oculus Rift VR headset. Read on for a tour of the showroom floor.
The Crashed Car Showroom is nestled in Sydney's CBD on 65 York Street, which is a short walk from Wynyard train station. It will be open to the public between 18 to 27 March. Entry is free for all ages.
Be a crash test dummy
The main attraction of the Crashed Car Showroom is a crash test dummy simulator that puts you inside a virtual car crash. Using a combination of sensored hydraulics, 3D software and the Oculus Rift headset, the simulation transports the user inside a dummy's noggin so they can experience a crash first-hand. The hydraulics react to the coding system within the Rift headset to match what the viewer is seeing.
The purpose of the simulator is to show how car safety has improved over the past 30 years -- the 'ride' involves two separate demos that simulate test conditions in 2014 and 1982. While the hydraulics system is surprisingly gentle (roughly comparable to a kid's ride at the supermarket), we still found ourselves flinching due to the convincing VR environment. If your car is getting a bit old and creaky, this could motivate/terrify you into upgrading.
Here's a video of the simulation in action:
If you happen to be in Sydney's CBD this month, we recommend checking the test crash dummy simulator out -- especially if you've never used an Oculus Rift before. The ability to look around and "see" a virtual world in 360 degrees is pretty amazing, even in grainy standard-definition. Even if you don't drive, it provides a great introduction to the future of entertainment technology; particularly in the area of gaming. Oculus Rift owners can also download the 3D demo from the NRMA website.
Eye-tracking camera for serial texters
Visitors to the Crashed Car Showroom can also test their attention spans via a Kinect-style camera that tracks your eye movements during a driving simulation. The demo sends you a text message half way through the test and measures how long you took your eyes off the road for.
When driving at 60km per hour, glancing at your phone for 1.4 seconds translates to over 23 metres of unobserved road. The demo ends with you crashing at an intersection, natch. Of all the attractions at the Crashed Car Showroom, this is probably the most informative and useful from a real-world standpoint. We also wouldn't be surprised to this technology make its way into mainstream cars in the near future -- complete with annoying alerts when your eyes veer away from the road. Tch.
All hail the Hail Gun!
Here's one for the gun nuts: a "Hailstorm Canon" that simulates extreme weather conditions by shooting balls of ice into a car door at 140 km/h. This is a real testing device used by NRMA Insurance to analyse the effects of hail on car paneling. (Sydneysiders may recall the apocalyptic hailstorm that caused approximately $4.2 billion worth of damage in 1999.)
Here's a video of it in action:
Hooray for shooting canons! If you've ever wanted to see how much damage a golf ball-sized hailstone can cause to your car, this demo is worth checking out. Naturally, it's also maniacally good fun.
Anatomy of a car
If Disney's Cars ever did a crossover with Dexter, the results would look something like this. The above image depicts a grimly dissected Peugeot with its inner safety features laid bare. The unfortunate vehicle was split into three pieces to give a glimpse at the hidden parts that are designed to protect drivers and passengers.
The dismembered car has also been fitted with a series of Near Field Communications (NFC) chips which allows vistors to find out about each safety feature by tapping their smartphone on the relevant area.
The Crashed Car Showroom event will run from tomorrow to 27 March. At present, there are no plans to bring the showroom to any other states or territories.