Ford Fund, the philanthropic arm of the company, and GlobalGiving, its international grant-making partner, have been working with independent gamers from Ford’s Team Fordzilla esports team. The racers feature in a new video to promote the fund’s Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) programme, where they test out three special suits designed to replicate the effects of drinking and sleepiness, to safely find out just how badly their driving is affected.
Using visual impairment, weights and sound effects the suits imitate how a person would be impacted when drunk, hungover or tired. After driving a “sober” lap, each expert simulation racer used one of the suits to drive the same lap while impaired, with noticeable consequences.
The momentary blindness of the sleep suit resulted in numerous crashes, the double vision of the drunk suit led to dangerously inaccurate driving, while the hangover suit caused erratic driving that ended in a spectacular crash that would likely have been fatal if in real-life.
Ford Fund has used these suits for a number of years to tangibly highlight the effects of different impairments and will continue to use them to help educate younger drivers as part of its DSFL programme. In Europe, road collisions remain one of the highest external causes of death amongst 15–25-year-olds 1 due in part to the distractions of music, passengers or phones, and also due to an increased exposure to drink and drugs that the increased social activity at this age often brings.
Participants at DSFL events in Europe this year will again get the chance to experience the suits for themselves alongside practical and theoretical training by professional instructors on how to more safely navigate Europe’s roads. The suits are also available for media to experience for themselves.
What is DSFL?
Driving Skills for Life is a programme to promote safer driving amongst young people that was launched by Ford Fund, the philanthropic arm of the company, in the USA in 2003.
It came to Europe in 2013 and has held training events in many European countries since, providing professional driver training instruction to more than 45,000 young drivers. Areas covered include the key risk factors of speed and space management, distraction, vehicle handling, hazard recognition and the negative impacts of driving under the influence.
More recently it has worked with SPIN, a micromobility company, to highlight safety aspects related to e‑Scooters and considerations when sharing the road. The training has also grown to incorporate training for the first time around electric vehicles, providing the opportunity to inform young drivers of aspects to be mindful of including instant acceleration, deceleration, and noise.
Launched at gamescom in 2019, Team Fordzilla is Ford’s first ever esports team, building on its real-world racing heritage by competing at the highest level on the virtual racing stage.
Since inception an important aspect of Team Fordzilla has been to explore synergies between the real and virtual worlds with projects like the P1 race car; the first car to be designed in collaboration between designers from an automaker and the gaming community. This new video is the latest example of the continuing exploration.
Team Fordzilla has a unique approach to gaming and is proud to build a community around its key values of accessibility, inclusivity, competitiveness and… fun!
Ford simulation suits
Ford engineers and designers use suits to simulate being heavily pregnant and elderly to help ensure the vehicles they create are useable and comfortable for all. The sleep suit, hangover suit and drink driving suit were inspired by those, but have been developed with the Meyer-Henschel Institute solely for educational purposes.
- Hangover Suit: Fatigue, dizziness, a throbbing head and difficulty concentrating can make driving while hungover as risky as drink driving, even if the driver is not over the legal alcohol limit. This suit uses weights, a special vest, cap and goggles and headphones to mimic the symptoms
- Drink Driving Suit: Around a quarter of all road fatalities in Europe are alcohol related, yet more than a third of young people admit to taking a ride from a driver who was under the influence. The suit makes simple tasks, such as walking in a straight line, much more difficult
- Sleep Suit: Fatigue is a major factor in 1 in 5 road crashes. Remaining awake for periods in excess of 18 hours can even impair abilities to a degree that is comparable to exceeding the drink drive limit in some countries. Weights and unique goggles that replicate microsleeps help replicate the effects of fatigue
“Car accidents are the number one cause of death in young people, and impaired driving is a significant part of that. Our Ford DSFL program aims to find ways to get the safer driving message through to those young people and with Team Fordzilla we’re fortunate to have another medium to reach them in an engaging way.”
Debbie Chennells, Ford Fund manager, Ford of Europe
1 Reducing casualties involving young drivers and riders in Europe | ETSC