Grab some coffee, or a Red Bull; here’s a racing game that almost certainly isn’t going to deliver a surge of adrenaline. Especially if you're the parent of a soon-to-be teen driver, take note.
Honda Safety Navi
Pretty much the polar opposite of Grand Theft Auto or Gran Turismo and their ilk, this new package from Honda in Japan, called Honda Safety Navi, includes two modes of driving-simulator play—or instruction, depending on how you see it.
‘Eco-Drive’ explains key points for how to be most efficient and reviews the user’s driving, with somewhat complex graphs of acceleration and fuel-efficiency. Altogether it looks to be a cross between what you get from some performance-analysis packages and the fuel economy histograms you can select in some hybrid vehicles.
The other half of the package, ‘SD Coacher,’ sounds more like part of a conventional driver’s ed program. It asks questions about traffic laws, teaches about relative risks, and tutors on merging and lane changes—all stuff that could help avoid accidents and save lives. There are also special courses for snowy and rainy conditions, as well as night driving, which most driver's ed programs likely omit.
The new simulator isn’t cheap. Prices for the software alone, which runs on a conventional PC outfitted with steering wheel and pedals, start at 210,000 yen (more than $2,000), while software and hardware together cost 298,000 yen (more than $3,000).
Honda hopes that the system will be used by a wide range of customers including companies with fleets, dealerships, and of course, driving schools.
For now it appears that the Honda system is just for Japan, but now that many states have completely done away with traditional driver’s ed programs, and some kids approach sixteen having practiced being Colin McRae or street-racing in LA countless times, we hope to see more products like it here.