To promote the launch of the all-new Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi is letting people take one for a spin on a closed course, controlling it remotely via the Web.
Until now, most virtual test-drives have been little more than a microsite with a few videos of a new car tooling around on picturesque city streets. A neighbor waves, a hill is climbed, and the driver adjusts the features of an entertainment system. It may be mildly entertaining, but it's hardly a virtual test-drive. The problem is always that you're more like a passenger than driver--the only thing you might control is the camera angle.
But Mitsubishi is raising the bar. It's taking the online shopping experience to a new level by letting drivers control a physical vehicle from their computer, bringing the consumer as close as possible to the product without leaving their seat.
Using their keyboard as a steering wheel, test-drivers will be able to steer the car around a closed course. Although participants will be able to control Outlander Sport's direction and speed, gear shifting is performed automatically by the software.
The course contains virtual targets for the drivers, which teach them about the Outlander Sport's unique features such as its regenerative braking system, panoramic glass roof, and standard Fuse hands-free link system. The car, rigged out with robotics equipment, proprietary software, and cameras, is limited to 30 mpg on its Long Beach, Calif., course. As drivers could be as far away as Alaska, network latency issues present an additional challenge to hitting the virtual targets. And if drivers get too squirrelly and veer off course, the software's GPS tracking system will automatically take control of the car and steer it back on track.
The virtual test-drive course is in Long Beach, Calif., so engineers had to factor in driver reaction times and possible network latency issues.
The test-drives will take place online from November 1 to 10. Starting October 15, the public can sign on the Outlander Sport microsite for a code that they will use to queue up for an assigned time slot. If you're fairly confident about your gaming abilities, you can invite your friends to watch your turn at the wheel by sharing your online code upon sign-in. Participants who want to take place in the world's first virtual test-drive must be a U.S. resident more than 18 years old and posses a valid driver's license. After all, it's not a video game.
The following clip gives you a taste of what the virtual test-drive is like:
In addition to the virtual test-drives, a Mitsubishi Outlander has been traveling around the U.S. and will visit 26 cities in 18 weeks. As a further part of its marketing strategy for the car, Mitsubishi is inviting Facebook fans and Twitter followers for a sneak peek at the Outlander Sport before it arrives in showrooms. The car goes on sale in early November and starts at $18,495.
In the past few months, Mitsubishi's Facebook fan numbers doubled due to its new marketing initiatives. Although the current fan base leans toward the tuner crowd, who frequently engage with Mitsubishi's social media team by asking esoteric questions about parts, accessories, and other Evo-centric questions, the company is hoping to broaden its base by heightening awareness of its advanced drivetrain technology and performance capabilities.