It looks like something out of science fiction - perhaps a flight simulator for an advanced space craft.

Inside this white dome in a hanger at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan is something just as high-tech, but with a more down-to-earth aim.

It's the world's most advanced driving simulator, designed to replicate the sensations of sitting behind the wheel of a car. It's part of Toyota's research into reducing road accidents.

Inside the dome is a actual vehicle, a Lexus.

It's loaded with electronics and sensors to interface with the simulation system and the wheels have been replaced with mounts that simulate road vibrations. Speakers reproduce wind noise.

Projectors above the car cover the inside walls of the dome with a computer-generated image that runs 360 degrees. It means drivers sitting in the car get the most realistic view possible. Even if they turn their heads or check their mirrors, the view matches what they expect to see.

Toyota has programmed a Japanese town into the system - perhaps not the first choice of would-be drivers that might like to take the car for a spin through extreme conditions - but research shows that most accidents happen near in home in settings just like this one.

The simulator allows Toyota to run the same simulation past many drivers to see how reactions change depending on age and sex.

The computer-powered simulator can do things that are too dangerous to do in real cars, even on test tracks, like measure the effects of drowsiness, alcohol or reactions times to a last-minute emergency.

In a control room overlooking the hangar-like room in which the dome sits, engineers monitor the simulation and driver response.

Adding an extra level of realism is the high tech mount on which the simulator sits. The hydraulic lift moves from side to side, from front to back, and banks to reproduce the feeling of acceleration and deceleration, as well as the sensation of driving around a curve.

The result is a spookily realistic computer-generated experience.