A virtual test drive is no big deal, right? Well, Mitsubishi is challenging that by offering the uber-virtual web drive of the 2011 Outlander Sport.

Mitsubishi Live Drive, the world’s first online test drive, uses an actual Outlander Sport - sans driver - on a closed course in Long Beach, California. Drivers will be able to control the vehicle’s speed and direction remotely over the internet, using their keyboard as a steering wheel. The software will perform the gear shifting automatically.

“This is virtual meets reality,” Maurice Durand, Product Communications Manager for Mitsubishi Motors North America, explained to AutoTrader.

The unmanned remote full-sized Outlander, equipped with robotics equipment, specialized software and cameras, will have a top speed of 35 miles per hour. One of the brains behind the project is James Brighton, an engineer for the UK government, who has been featured in Top Gear. Brighton invented the remote control section of the program. Another noted scientist, Simon Cave, was responsible for the online technology.

“Basically within the ten days of the drive, November 1st - 10th, the vehicle will be running for 18 hours a day,” explained Durand. “Our goal is to have 700 people a day run the 90 second test.” To assure that the vehicles have a break, two Outlander Sports will rotate so each has a chance for a pit stop to check tire pressure, gas, water, etc.

Once people sign up, they get a code which allows you to join the queue when you return to the website for the virtual test-drive. The good news: when participants are waiting in line they can take a practice course. However, once on the track, it’s serious business. Run off the course just once and the control shuts off. “That eliminates out-of-control drivers,” noted Durand.

There’s also a gaming element to the test drive. Along the route, imaginary pods pop up to show you about the car’s cool features, including paddle shifters, slammin’ speakers, panoramic glass roof and Fuse hands-free link system. “The key word here is that the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has more (including features, style, mpg, and pluck),” says Durand.

Best yet, you can invite your friends along, via Twitter and Facebook, to virtually watch you drive.

So, we asked, can they comment on your driving? “Yes, there will be a tab on the Mitsubishi Facebook page which allows you to upload the results so that your online friends can compare and interact after the test drive,” said Durand.

Durand noted, “We’re excited for this challenge and we’re hoping that this experience will allow the participants to learn more about the cool features of the vehicle, and ultimately be able to concentrate on driving when they do the actual test at one of our dealers.”

Interested? If you are a US resident over 18 with a valid driver’s license, the sign up date is October 15 on the Outlander Sport microsite. Participants will be assigned a code to queue up starting November 2nd. The event will take place Nov. 1st for the VIP’s, and will last until the November 10th.

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Holly Reich writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on uptownlife.net.

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