How virtual reality is changing the car-buying experience

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- At the Silicon Valley Auto Show, prospective car buyers could get a glimpse of the future, where shopping for a car doesn't require a real car at all. They just pull on virtual reality goggles for a close look at the latest Lexus models.

Virtually every option can be seen virtually. But how does it drive? The kiosk of a company called FlowFound offers virtual test drives in several different cars.The kiosks are now available at selected dealerships around the country.

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Test driving a car with virtual reality CBS News

One disappointment? You're stuck in the virtual passenger seat. Nick Cybela, FlowFound's CEO, designed the test drives to demonstrate advanced features that buyers aren't likely to never encounter in a real test drive.

"There's so many self-driving safety performance and features that you just can't try," Cybela said. "Whether it's launch mode or collision avoidance. And these things work, but they're scary."

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Taking a virtual test drive without the car CBS News

Car shoppers may have another reason to put on the goggles: dodging the sales pitch.

"the salesmen are very well-trained," said Grace Ahn, who studies virtual reality in marketing. "Using these virtual test drives, you are able to avoid a lot of these social pressures and make decisions in your own pace in your own time."

So car shoppers, relax. In the virtual world, the car salesman doesn't exist.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.