Interactives boost Detroit auto show experience

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

Detroit — Steve Hickcox watched as his 12-year-old grandson tore up the track behind the wheel of a Dodge Charger. For his part, Tristan Delp seemed to be enjoying himself.

Once, during his two laps on the track, he let go of the wheel and threw his hands in the air as the high-performance hunk of metal around him shook.

Seeing his grandson’s driving was making Hickcox nervous.

“The scary part is I’ve got a Charger at home,” said the resident of Melvin, near Yale.

Thankfully, Delp was only testing out a simulator of the Dodge Charger during the second public day of the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center. Pretend or not, the car was programmed to respond to all the bumps along the virtual track on which he was driving.

Was Delp ready to take grandpa’s Charger out for a ride? “Not on this track,” he said.

The show lets family pick out their next car or check out vehicles that are out of reach. And when the children get bored, they can turn to activities and interactive displays like Dodge Charger simulator.

Activities include shooting a video with Kia’s dancing hamsters and Lexus’ virtual driving machine to Ford’s innovation park.

Anju Hora of Northville is a Ford engineer, so it’s no surprise that the first thing her sons, Anish, 12, and Rohin, 10, wanted to do was see the display and build Ford trucks.

“I think this is great. It initiates building and gives that sense of making something to the kids,” said Hora, whose sons both said they’d like to be engineers.

On Saturday, 110,509 people attended the auto show, up nearly 4 percent from last year’s opening day. The crowds also came out Sunday, resulting in long lines to try out the simulators, especially the Charger racer, where people stood in line longer than an hour. Sunday’s crowd totaled 105,327, organizers said.

At Denso, the auto supplier showcased a simulator that would allow visitors to experience a “talking car.”

Spencer Barrette, 13, thought it was neat, but not as cool as the Charger racing game. “Some of the stuff here hasn’t changed, but some of it is very different,” the Stoney Point, Ontario, resident said. “I like this.”

In the Lexus display, the automaker turned to events company ASV to create a fully emersive virtual reality racing game out of the Lexus RCF. Visitors were able to climb into a simulator, put on a headset and headphones and feel as though they were driving the car around the track.

Abdallah Abushaban of Dearborn had been waiting 20 minutes to get a ride.

“It (looks) kind of hard,” he said. “I just want to try it, see how bad I’m going to do.”

(313) 222-2127