Driving Improvements Through Virtual Reality Experience: DRIVE Program

Helping Neurodiverse Individuals Prepare for the Driving Exam

Teenage male participating in virtual driving practice with female instructor
Teenage male participating in virtual driving practice with female instructor

Donate to the DRIVE Program Fund
foundation logo Donate

Section Menu

Donate to the DRIVE Program Fund
foundation logo Donate

Driving can be an anxiety-inducing event for many people. Neurodiverse individuals, particularly those with autism, tend to experience heightened levels of anxiety when driving, especially when it’s time to take their driving exam. As a result, many capable adults with autism avoid pursuing their driver’s license due to overriding anxiety. The DRIVE Program – a blend of virtual and hands-on driving experience -- helps prepare atypical learners for a successful driving exam.

The Immersive Virtual Driving Experience

The program uses fully immersive virtual reality technology to provide students with an experience that simulates a driving exam. Students receive immediate feedback related to various driving scenarios in which they participate through a computer-simulated instructor. In addition, a trained behavioral analyst who is present for the session will help guide students through each scenario while paying careful attention to their levels of stress and anxiety. Alongside the VR experience, students will work with a behavioral analyst to learn the rules of the road through a tailored course curriculum.

After completion of the DRIVE Program, both participants and their parents have reduced anxiety around the overall driving experience.

  • Virtual reality reduced driving-related anxiety by 36% on average across all participants
  • Parent anxiety is reduced an average of 68% from baseline to the end of the program trials
  • Participant behind-the-wheel anxiety is reduced by 41% across all participants
Learn more about the DRIVE Program's pilot year.

The Behind-the-Wheel Experience

Once the individual student is ready, they will work with an instructor from a local driving school. Our driving school partners have received specialist training to work with neurodiverse students to promote their success and reduce their anxiety. Accompanied by the instructor, the student will practice driving in a safe and controlled setting.

Driving instructor teaching student how to drive

The Driver’s License Test

When the student and instructor agree that the time is right, the instructor will accompany the student for their behind-the-wheel driving test. 

Interested in Finding Out More?

The DRIVE Program is now a Vocational Rehabilitation vendor and enrolling new participants. If you already have your driving Learner’s Permit, please take our Expression of Interest survey to help us get to know more about you. Once completed, we can determine whether you will be eligible for the program.

To find out more about the DRIVE program, please contact the program lead, Dr. Christina Potter at DriveProgram@nicklaushealth.org.


Supported By