A small group of automotive journalists gathered recently in Southern California to watch an unusual sight: A fully functional Volkswagen Touareg that could be controlled without anyone in the driver's seat.
The custom-made SUV was part of a special showcase hosted by Volkswagen, where a select few got a glimpse at some of the stunt driving skills used in the making of The Bourne Ultimatum, the third and newest installment of the Bourne films. The movie's stunt team developed a special cockpit attached to the top of the Touareg, complete with a seat, steering wheel, and pedals that allowed the driver to control the car from the roof. With the stunt driver "hidden" on top, camera crews had the freedom to shoot the actor in the driver's seat from any angle without obstruction.
Each of us got a chance to ride along on a choreographed chase in the driver's seat of the custom-made Touareg, dubbed a Remote Driven Vehicle (RDV) by its creators. The car had to be put in gear from the inside, but once the RDV was in drive, we passengers were completely at the mercy of the madman--er--professional up above. It was exciting (and a little disconcerting) to watch the driver's steering wheel turn by itself as we chased a nimble GTI though a series of narrow, makeshift alleyways of cardboard boxes. The sound of screeching tires echoed loudly as the cars maneuvered through the obstacle course. Run after run, each passenger was subjected to sudden swerves and near head-on collisions. All emerged unscathed, save for some sweaty palms and pounding hearts (and maybe a few sore bellies from laughing so hard). A couple of crashed cars from the making of the film were also on display.
After the RDV demonstration, we got personalized instruction from the professional drivers on how to do a variety of car-control moves, including J-turns, reverse 180s, and power sliding into a parallel parking spot. Needless to say, a lot of cones were killed in the process.
Watch official video of the RDV and other behind-the-scenes action from The Bourne Ultimatum here.