From inside the "car", you pretty much see the same thing you would in the real world... except it's a bit more blocky. Dvice/Charlie White

Charlie over at Dvice got a chance to go check out the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS-1) at the University of Iowa, and take the gargantuan piece of machinery for a spin. Costing $80 million to build and requiring a building the size of a gymnasium, the NADS-1 is considered the most sophisticated driving sim in the world. The verdict? Charlie says it’s the closest thing to actually driving he’s experienced.

According to Charlie, the experience very much feels like a real car, because you actually sit in one–minus the wheels and engine, of course. This car is enveloped by a giant, spherical pod that projects artificial scenery all around you and is connected to a series of rails and stabilizers inside the giant warehouse.

When you accelerate, the car pushes you back against your seat. When you swerve, you move back and forth as expected. And when you brake…well, you better hope your seatbelt is working properly. And because the machine matches the simulated G-force on screen, there’s no motion sickness to suffer. In short, this thing sounds awesome, and I will have one someday (when I’m a billionaire, of course). Be sure to check out Dvice for even more photos of the NADS-1.

[via Dvice]

NADS-1 Exterior

This pod houses the dummy car and projector setup for the 3-D landscape. A set of shocks and stabilizers underneath can replicate the feeling of swerving and sharp movement.

The Road

This series of tracks and rails are what allow the NADS-1 to trick you into thinking you’re on an actual road. The pod stays attached to a main chain drive that slides along a series of other rails, providing enough X-Y movement to complete the illusion.

Back Seat Driver

From inside the “car”, you pretty much see the same thing you would in the real world… except it’s a bit more blocky.

Visual Trickery

A pulled-back look reveals that most the visual work is done by a bending, panoramic screen and projector.

Safety First

Even mere simulators need industrial-strength safety panels. I would hate to see what would happen if the NADS-1 went haywire.

Real Cars, Fake Scenarios

As you can see, the NADS-1 simulator uses modified cars for drivers to sit in, but lacking such real-world essentials like wheels, and you know, an engine.