Nissan has long had ties with the Gran Turismo gaming franchise, not only appearing in the game, but running its own GT Academy, aiming to turn gamers into racing drivers. Now it has taken a real-life Nissan GT-R car and made it remote control, using the PS4 Dual Shock controller.
That's right, Nissan has taken its road-going race car, packing the full 542bhp V6 beast with plenty of technology so that it can be driven with a standard Dual Shock controller, just as you would in the PS4 game Gran Turismo Sport.
This isn't just a half-baked marketing stunt, as the car is the full production car, with a few modifications. There are four robots within the cockpit of the car to handle the steering, brakes, throttle and to change the transmission. As it's automatic, there's no need to change gears and yes, it will reverse too.
Rather than just showing off this one-of-a-kind play thing, Nissan let us loose on a section of the Silverstone track to drive it ourselves. What's not only remarkable about this is that Nissan trusted us to do so, but that it also drives like a car in GT Sport.
The PS4 Dual Shock controller is unmodified: it's a standard controller, so you're using the regular controls, with steering on the left joystick and brake and throttle on the L1 and R1 triggers. Amusingly, to get it into drive, you have to press the PS button, then hit the up button on the D-pad.
That sends the command to the robot inside that physically moves the drive controller in the car. Moving that joystick sees the steering wheel moving in the car. There's nothing autonomous going on here, it's using the same physical controls as you would if you were driving it.
It was with some trepidation that we took the controls. With a car that will do 0-62 in under 3 seconds, there's plenty of potential for things to go wrong - with just a slip of the finger. But, just like in racing games, a gentle squeeze of the throttle saw the GT-R start rolling like some sort of sentient race car.
The mapping from controller to car is impressive, but you have to remember that there's only the travel of that trigger to go from 0-7000rpm and only seconds from sending this race car into the crash barrier. With a gentle touch we're driving the GT-R like any other remote controlled car, with the Qashqai we're sitting in, speeding along behind trying to keep up.
Although the Dual Shock controller connects to the PS4 with Bluetooth, Nissan - and conversion partners JLB Design - decided that it needed to be tethered to the controlling computer to make sure that control wasn't lost because the Bluetooth connection momentarily dropped. That computer then transmits the commands to the GT-R via a radio frequency, meaning that there's a range of about a kilometre.
Of course Nissan wasn't going to let us loose with no safety measures in place on its bespoke toy, so there's a second override controller too, as well as a kill switch. These both have greater range, so if the PS4 controller failed for any reason, then Nissan can either take override control, or punch the emergency stop button to kill the car.
Remarkably there appeared to be almost no lag, meaning immediate and responsive controls as we completed the test track circuits and then attempted to reverse park the GT-R.
What is strange is the remote viewing location. We were following in a Nissan Qashqai being driven by a Nissan Agent, aiming to get us in the best viewing position. That also made for some exciting driving as a twitch of the finger sends the GT-R toward the horizon in a rasping full-throttle roar and the SUV tries to keep up, but hitting the brakes was even more exciting.
The Nissan GT-R is pretty good at stopping, but with such short travel on the Dual Shock trigger, you go from no brakes to hard braking within a couple of millimetres. We'd hate to see what the effect has on the tyres, but there's something awesomely empowering about bringing that car to a shuddering halt with a twitch of the finger.
Turning is also hard to get smooth: it's extraordinarily twitchy as the controller springs back to the centre, reflecting that movement in the steering wheel. Seeing a full-sized car cutting angles around a corner just as you would in a computer game is an awesome sight, but with a car that will happily corner at speed, that's also the time that you feel you could lose control of the whole thing.
Admittedly, our driving of the Nissan GT-R/C was both restrained and rather amateurish. But Nissan put it in the hands of one of its own drivers, Jann Mardenborough. Jann's story is interesting, because he's the product of the GT Academy, both a very good gamer and now a very good race driver.
Nissan handed over the car, stuck him in a helicopter and had the GT-R/C driving the national circuit at Silverstone, at speeds up to 130mph, only a little slower than you'd do if driving the circuit first-hand in the car itself.
We were fortunate enough to do just that in the new 2017 Nissan GT-R and given how much you need to concentrate to hit the racing line through those corners in the real car, how you manage to do it with a PS4 controller, from a helicopter, is beyond us.
If you're a billionaire who wants to buy a couple of remote controlled GT-Rs for the garden, I guess you need to talked to Nissan very nicely.