Learn to drive in your living room

2011-08-08 08:31

Pilots use them when they learn to fly while astronauts train in them to prepare for space travel.

Now local learner drivers can be strapped into simulators and practise navigating the road.

A businesswoman from Alberton, southeastern Joburg, is about to change the way we learn to drive.

Anne Bourne (44) will be teaching novices how to drive in relative comfort.

She says: “I thought what a good idea the simulator would be after driving with a former colleague and realising how unprepared I was to be behind a real wheel.”

This anecdote made me think of my own unhelpful driving instructor, who would recline in his seat and sleep for my hour-long driving lesson because he said I knew how to drive.

Bourne’s simulator is a single unit that resembles an arcade driving game – except this one has a real ignition with a key, steering wheel, pedals and a seat belt.

It also has indicator and windscreen-wiper controls, a five-speed manual gearbox, a clutch plate as well as earphones. The 32-inch LCD screen incorporates the rear-view mirror view.

Bourne says: “I saw a simulator article in the Rapport and City Press career pages in February this year and I knew it was finally time to practise what I’ve been dreaming of.

“My unit was delivered to my home and it set me back R50?000 excluding VAT, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

And the machine has regular upgrades.

“I received a full day’s training as well as training manuals to help me on my way. So I’m quite excited,” says Bourne.

I got behind the wheel to test the machine, and I battled because of old driving habits. I felt like I hadn’t driven a car for the past 15 years.

The simulator won’t let you begin your lesson unless you’re strapped in.

It might seem easy, but it’s learning to drive from scratch.

Joubert Smith, the general manager of Afism, a company that brings simulators into the country, says the driving simulator training is based on the K53 test standards and has 12 modules.

“It’s very stressful for parents to teach their children to drive, and we wanted to fill the gap between people who cannot drive at all and the training which is provided at driving schools,” says Smith.

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