Motion Pro II - World’s Most Dangerous Driving Simulator
If you’re like almost every other person reading this, then as a kid you probably would have given anything to have one of those old arcade driving games in your living room. While everyone else spent their quarters on Mortal Kombat or Golden Axe, you honed the driving skills you knew would one day bring you glory on F1GP, Virtua Racing...maybe Crazy Taxi, on a light day.
But deep down, you always longed for that military-grade simulator sitting in your living room — every track and race car in the world at your disposal, complete with ultra-realistic force-feedback and IMAX screen. You wanted to feel the danger. A couple decades later, L.A.-based CXC Simulations answered that call — and its answer is "Be careful what you wish for."
Continue reading to learn more about the Motion Pro II.
The idea of using a sim to train for real-world experience goes back way before anyone even thought of Atari. The military’s embraced them ever since the fist mechanical pilot training systems came about in WWII. It took a while, but eventually computer sims became the racing driver’s secret weapon — especially since Gran Turismo and Forza began featuring photo-realistic renditions of actual racing circuits. While the physics never have been 100 percent spot-on, those games at least gave drivers some "practical" experience on learning real-world tracks before making dangerous mistakes on race day.
But as anyone who’s done it can tell you, driving sims are to real driving what Madden NFL is to playing in the actual NFL. You can learn all the plays you want to, but at the end of the day victory comes down to feeling the real world, and dealing with the beating it dishes out.
But as anyone who's done it can tell you, driving sims are to real driving what Madden NFL is to playing in the actual NFL.
That goes double in racing, especially when it comes to feedback through the steering wheel, brakes and seat. The first "haptic feedback" video-game steering wheels were fun; but they were always too slow, too weak, and to imprecise to allow drivers to "feel" for the limit of grip. For that millisecond, back-and-forth transition between the hard buzz of adhesion and the greasy smoothness of sliding tires.
The new ProMotion II from CXC uses the latest in high-powered, high-speed, high-precision electronic actuators to deliver exactly that. Not just through the steering wheel, but through the brake pedal and seat. It’s capable of not just delivering those big jolts of acceleration and braking, and the slower sway of body roll and nose-dive, but much smaller and more precise variations in pressure that mimic tires on the limit of adhesion, cracks in the road, and even brake grip and fade. And there’s more — this driving sim is practically a core workout machine in itself.
Ever wonder why you rarely racing drivers without a decent set of abs? No, it’s not just to look good in pictures and impress the girls in the clubhouse.
The CXC sim is like one of those inflatable balance balls at the gym -- albeit one forever disrupted by powerful and malicious actuators designed to punish you for attempting to maintain a vertical posture.
Even in spite of the seat bolstering, real racing in a purpose-built car is absolutely brutal on the core section. You’re forever tightening and releasing your midsection and back muscles just to stabilize your body, push against the wheel and fight the sudden changes in G force while cornering and braking. Spending more than 15 minutes in a purpose-built race car under race conditions is a physically punishing experience, especially if you’re not physically conditioned for it. Burning back muscles and twitching triceps are the order of the day — but you usually won’t notice those until the feeling of getting kicked in the stomach by a donkey subsides.
The CXC sim is like one of those inflatable balance balls at the gym — albeit one forever disrupted by powerful and malicious actuators designed to punish you for attempting to maintain a vertical posture. Every inch of this thing hates you. And in that respect at least, it’s a near perfect simulation of a real race car.
All that’s left at this point is to stick your feet in an oven and mix clean air with equal parts fuel vapor and rubber smoke. Then, you’ll be about 20 percent of the way to the real deal.
Does all of this sound a wee bit dangerous for a "simulator?" It is.
The CXC simulator’s incredibly powerful actuators are capable of delivering 16 newton-meters of force feedback — that’s 11 foot-pounds of torque. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s about double the force it would take to break your wrists if the steering wheel moved too quickly. And the lateral actuators’ 2.0 G of instantaneous force are more than enough to hammer the discs in your spine and neck into cartilage jelly. Especially if your muscles aren’t conditioned to handle the forces. Said CXC founder and former racer Chris Considine, jokingly:
"It’s the first time we’ve been able to replicate racing forces so high that it introduces liability questions."
In other words: Meet the first "video game" in the world that requires a HANS device and insurance waiver.
But Chris, being an experienced racer, is well aware of the dangers to both customers and his own company’s insurance premiums. While CXC’s sim is more than capable of shaking and sucking the DNA from your bones, they don’t turn it up that high. The sim uses most of its massive power to provide small, quick movements for ultra-realistic feedback through the seat and steering wheel. Still enough to give you that "donkey kick to the abs" sensation after an hour or so — but it beats a donkey kick to the spine after your first crash.
Meet the first "video game" in the world that requires a HANS device and insurance waiver.
After all this, the fact that the software contains hundreds of laser-scanned, photo-realistic, real-world race tracks almost seems like an afterthought. The track scans return about Playstation 3 quality graphics, and accurately record everything from the road cracks on the Nurburgring to the rumble strips at Monaco. The computer knows every tiny crest, expansion joint and change in road surface; it even accounts for temperature, time of day and weather. Buyers have their choice of a thousand different cars at present, and those cars can be custom tailored to mimic real-world chassis and suspension setups.
A full Dolby 5.1 surround sound system replicates the auditory stimuli, and probably plays a pretty decent Rob Zombie when asked. The setup you see here isn’t quite the seamless IMAX screen we always dreamed of — but those three individual panels cover about 150 degrees of horizontal vision. An Intel Core I7 Extreme Edition Processor orchestrates events, but the system is upgradeable to use whatever wonder-chip comes out next year. They key word here is "versatility."
Speaking of which — remember those military flight sims mentioned earlier? Yeah, the Motion II can do those too. With a change of control hardware and new software, the CXC sim can do double duty in the deep blue yonder, enabling dogfights in the clouds as easily as on the streets of Willow. Easier, in fact. All things considered, the flight sim application is almost a waste of the Motion II’s incredible capabilities.
Of course, all of this awesomeness does come at a pretty shocking price. Prepare yourself.
It starts at $54,000, American.
To put that into perspective, consider this: Back in 1997 (high school for some of us), one of the biggest arcade racing games around was Wipeout. Rather than cars, it featured kind of Star Wars style "speeders" — along with one of the best techno soundtracks ever recorded for a video game. You can see an early beta version of it in Hackers. When I asked a family friend who owned an arcade how much it would cost to install a Wipeout setup in my bedroom, he laughed and quoted me a little over $10,000...in 1997 money. That’s about 15 grand today. In 2015, a cheap "blank" home racing simulator with no software and ’90s-grade steering-wheel feedback runs about three grand for a single seat. The best setups today, which at least have vibrating and bumping seats, go for over $20,000.
So, now, is $54,000 (for the base model CXC) still a ridiculous sum of money?
Yes. Yes it is.
That is, in fact, more than I’ve paid for all 27 cars I’ve owned put together.
Then again, I’ve never owned a million-dollar Indy car, DTM grand tourer or NASCAR screamer. I’ve never personally had to pay to replace a carbon-fiber front end after gently scraping along a concrete barrier at 180 mph, or broken my neck after slamming end-on into a pit wall. So, maybe cost is a relative thing here.
And the core workout is a nice bonus, too.