First driving simulator centre opens in Richmond

Whether you want to hone your skills as a Formula 1 racer or just pass your N, a first-of-its-kind driving simulator has just opened in Richmond.

Axon Driver Solutions, located on the third floor of Aberdeen Centre, is a space for driving enthusiasts to test their skills, as well as an ICBC-approved driving school that integrates classroom hours, simulator time and on-road training.

Dean Chen, director and lead instructor of Axon Driver Solutions, said when the company launched two years ago, it was intended to be a service company that would supply the simulators to driving schools. However, many of those schools were hesitant to use the new technology, so instead of servicing other schools, they opened their own.

The company’s biggest challenge is overcoming the misconception among the public (and perhaps driving schools) that their driving simulator is just another arcade game, he explained.

Not only is that inaccurate, said Chen, professional race car drivers from the Formula 1 teams practice on driving simulators.

That said, Chen doesn’t believe simulators should replace on-road practice; however, the technology can effectively complement on-road practice and can help students develop basic driving skills before getting into a real car.

 “A lot of people take the written test (…) but when they jump into the car and need to make quick decisions, they’re not used to it and get nervous. It’s not an easy learning environment,” Chen added.

Lindsay Wilkins, spokesperson for ICBC, said they are “gradually seeing an increase in the use of driving simulators by driver training schools over the years across B.C.,” adding that they “see value in it as an educational tool, and schools have found that simulators can assist with assessing decision-making, teaching hazard perception and can also be effective in teaching steps within maneuvers.

“We’re supportive of using technology such as simulators as part of comprehensive driver training programs, but we believe that nothing can replace actual experience and time spent on the road.”

The simulators use similar D-BOX mechanics and physics that provide an 80 to 90 per cent real-time feedback of being in a real car.

Chen and his staff want to promote the use of the simulators as a way to help students build confidence and provide a safer learning environment.

Axon Driver Solutions remodeled and reconfigured existing simulation software to make driving maps that mimic racetracks and roads like ones in Richmond.

Their hardware and simulator platform are also built by themselves minus some of the controls and parts which are bought in from other companies.

The business is partnered with two local motorsports team in a training program – expected to start next year – where one is a karting team that helps develop young kids to become future motorsports stars and the other a local team that races in Mission.

Drop-in prices for Axon Driver Solutions are $20 for 15 minutes, $36 for 30 mins and $55 for an hour. There is also a punch card option that costs $160 for 10 half-hour sessions; schedule lessons are also available.

The simulator centre is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to Sunday.

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