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VR and self-driving cars are a fascinating, scary combo

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The rise of self-driving cars is going to radically change how we think about driving, and Renault partnered with Ubisoft to drive that point home with a virtual reality experience that can be enjoyed while you’re taking a spin in Renault’s self-driving concept car. You can watch a video released in mid-December above to see the system in action.

“‘Mind-off’ technology frees up drivers from driving and surveillance tasks when they switch into autonomous mode,” Renault explains on its official page. “The car itself has the ability to ensure safety in the event of an exceptional incident in its environment. This delegated driving gives drivers the time for other activities, be they personal or professional, their minds completely detached from the task of driving.”

The virtual reality experience is just an example of something you can do in a self-driving car that you can’t do in a standard vehicle or even at home. The experience uses data from the car’s sensors to show you a virtual representation of the road and the objects near you, while giving reality a makeover to turn a boring road into something fantastical.

You’re also unlikely to get sick because your body will feel the car turning, accelerating and decelerating while the visuals recreate those same motions. So you can experience your car ride, in real time, through the magic of virtual reality. Why see your actual surroundings when you could drive through something that looks like space, or a futuristic city?

Engadget itself noted the PR value in this strategy, while writing up its own hands-on (hands-off?) experience “driving” the car.

“Renault’s Symbioz test drives were a smart PR move to bring attention to its electric and self-driving vehicle development,” Engadget reported. “(Putting a VR experience into a Level 4 self-driving EV is a pretty well-played strategy for enticing tech journalists.)”

While it’s unlikely the mainstream is going to be comfortable using VR in moving vehicles anytime soon, or that it will even be an option outside of one-off concept cars, this is a pretty good way for Renault to promote the idea that the driver will be free to do anything they want while the car drives for them.

The experience is a bit on the dystopian side of things, since in the above video the driver is escaping the horrors of a beautiful country road in favor of a science fiction landscape, but it drives home the point that soon we could all be free to do whatever we’d like while moving from point to point in our daily lives.

I can’t wait to finally live in a future where I can work on my way to work!

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