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A Look at How Toyota’s Virtual Reality Simulations are Helping Teens avoid Distracted Driving

Oculus Rift was originally developed by the independent company Oculus VR, bought by Facebook in March 2014 for $2 billion, as a virtual reality headset so that hardcore video gamers could sling frag grenades in award-winning games like Doom 3. Toyota has now repurposed the Oculus Rift headset for something else—to exterminate distracted driving.

Teen Drivers Ignore Perils of Distracted Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for teenage drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2011, nearly one in five were distracted by the use of a cell phone. "This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted," said the NHTSA. An Automobile Association of America study investigated 1,700 teenage car crashes caught on tape and went even further; 58 percent of accidents, it said, involved distracted driving.

TeenDrive365 Seeks to Reduce Distracted Driving

On November 18, 2013, Toyota launched a campaign to end the ignorance and apathy surrounding distracted driving. "TeenDrive365" aims to foster teenage responsibility and parental guidance, a methodology based on the results of a national study conducted by Toyota in collaboration with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The campaign includes training videos, a $15,000 grassroots video contest, driving advice from racing superstars like Antron Brown and JD Gibbs, a safe-driving contract and now, with the addition of Oculus Rift, a distracted driving simulator.

Toyota Uses Virtual Reality to Combat Distracted Driving

First unveiled at the Dallas Auto Show in March 2015, the simulator, built in partnership with 360i, invites teenagers to hop behind the wheel of a stationary car, don a headset, and drive down a city street. Raucous passengers, sirens, text messages, flocks of birds and other stimuli compete for attention. In this driving test, there are no second chances.
Almost 80 percent of participants have said they would reduce distractions because of their simulator experience. Teenagers and parents alike are learning that, unlike in a video game, there are no multiple lives.

Consider the Lessons Learned

While you might think this simulator program is just a marketing ruse, consider the types of things that teenagers gain from stepping inside a driving test like this:

  • Distracted driving escalates. Read one text message or open one bag of chips, and the distractions multiply.
  • Driving is leadership. A driver’s hands hold the lives of his or her passengers. Should those hands be grasping the wheel at 10 and 2, or "liking" a friend’s selfies?
  • Distractions decrease response times. Teenage drivers often believe in their infallible reflexes. A billboard and bent bumper later, that myth is expunged.
  • You get to watch your BFF fail. Watching a friend shatter her windshield leverages the power of peer pressure for the greater good.

Thanks to Toyota’s innovative TeenDriver365 campaign, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is doing more than helping gamers destroy virtual demons. As the program continues, teens will be able to grasp the gravity of distracted driving, and make their own resolutions for safe driving in the future.

The information for this article was provided by a DUI attorney in Los Angeles.

About the 2014 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab

The small pickup truck market has steadily shrunk since the 1990s as shoppers choose larger trucks that offer more power, higher payloads, tremendous towing capabilities and fairly competitive fuel mileage. Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge have left the market with only Toyota and Nissan remaining.

The Toyota Tacoma controls two-thirds of the small pickup truck market, fielding regular and extended cab models including the Access Cab, a truck with two standard doors and dual, large rear hinge access doors. Its the middle model in the Tacoma line up, priced from $20,515 and sold in 4×2, 4×4 and PreRunner configurations.

Engines and Transmissions

The standard engine with the 2014 Toyota Tacoma is a 2.7-liter inline four cylinder, a 16-valve motor with direct fuel injection. This engine makes 159 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 180 foot-pounds of torque at 3,800 rpm. It measures 3.74 bore by 3.74 stroke and has a 9:6-to-1 compression ratio. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a four-speed automatic transmission is available.

Buyers can also choose a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, a 24-valve motor that is also outfitted with direct fuel injection. This engine makes 236 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 266 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. It measures 3.70 bore by 3.74 stroke and has a 10.0-to-1 compression ratio. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; a five speed automatic transmission is available. 

Technical Information

The Access Cab is a 4×2 model or it can be equipped with part-time 4×4. It comes with a coil spring independent double wishbone suspension up front and a leaf spring rigid suspension in the rear. This model has rack-and-pinion power steering, ventilated front disc brakes, leading-drum brakes in the rear, and is outfitted with standard 15-inch steel wheels.

Optional wheels include 15- and 16-inch styled steel wheels, and 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels. All season tires are standard; mud & snow rated tires are also available. This truck is equipped with an anti-lock brake system, electronic braking distribution, brake assist, stability control, and traction control. 

Vehicle Dimensions

The Toyota Tacoma Access Cab sits on a 127.4-inch wheelbase and measures 208.1 inches long, up to 70.3 inches tall and as much as 74.3 inches wide. It comes equipped with a 6-foot bed.

This model has a ground clearance of 7.9 to 9.1 inches. Its payload ranges from 1,255 to 1,500 pounds. Standard towing capacity is 3,500 pounds. Choose the optional V-6 tow prep package and that limit pushes up to 6,500 pounds. The Tacoma is outfitted with a 21.1-gallon fuel tank and is rated as high as 21 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, and as low as 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. Regular grade gasoline is recommended.

Key Features

The Toyota Tacoma Access Cab comes equipped or has available the following exterior features: mud guards, an engine skid plate, variable speed wipers, fog lights, bed tie downs, and a full spare tire.

Inside, Toyota equips this model with air conditioning, fabric-trimmed front seats, fold up rear seats with under seat storage, power windows and power door locks, LED-illuminated gauges, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, rear seat heat vents, two 12-volt outlets, two bottle holders up front, and up to five cup holders.

An Entune audio system is standard across the model line. The multimedia package features an AM/FM/CD player. a 6.1-inch touchscreen, iPod connectivity, hands-free phone access, voice recognition, Bluetooth wireless technology, and an auxiliary jack. An upgraded package with SiriusXM satellite radio is available as are navigation and app suite package upgrades.

Tacoma Considerations

The Toyota Tacoma made its debut in 1995, but Toyota has been building trucks for decades. The previous model was simply known as "Pickup." 

Several special equipment packages are available including SR5, TRD Off-Road, TRD Sport Package and a Limited package. Equipment upgrades include a front tow hook, a 115-volt outlet, chrome grille surround, upgraded seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an integrated backup camera a and special graphics. Chrome cladding, color-keyed bumpers and heated front seats are among the other available upgrades.

Photo courtesy of Toyota.

Author Information
Harrison Plamer is a professional blogger that provides information on CDL truck driving and owner operator truck driving jobs. He writes for BestDriverJobs.com, the best place to find a truck driving job nationwide.