Congratulations to NYU Steinhardt student Jonathon Lentine (MS ’22), finalist in the New Venture Competition of the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge with his cost-effective driving simulator for drivers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“My idea for this concept started when I was learning to drive,” said Lentine. “The very first time I was out on the road with my father, we hit a patch of gravel and the car started fishtailing and lost traction. I just corrected with the wheel instinctively, and my father was blown away because he hadn’t taught me how to do that. But I knew what to do from playing video games – I had done it thousands of times before.”
“Crash Course” is the brainchild of Lentine and Jihye Lee, former business operations consultant and friend of Lentine’s since their undergraduate years at Pace University. Their original concept was a driving simulator for everyone, but their time in NYU’s Startup Bootcamp taught them to narrow down on a target customer.
“The bootcamps really focused us on finding an initial customer base that really needed your product,” said Lentine. “We started looking at who would benefit the most, and we discovered that among people with ASD who don’t have intellectual disabilities, only one out of three have their driver’s licenses. This one milestone can have a major impact on living fully functional lives, so we thought Crash Course might be able to help.”
Crash Course uses state-of-the-art virtual reality that is widely accessible via most PC and gaming consoles. The goal is to help people with ASD find confidence behind the wheel by practicing real-life driving situations that they may find difficult, reducing their anxiety through practice and repetition.
To bring the concept to fruition, Lentine drew upon his education in the Master of Science in Games for Learning (G4L) program.
“I ended up at Steinhardt because I was interested in game design for broader purposes beyond entertainment."
“I ended up at Steinhardt because I was interested in game design for broader purposes beyond entertainment,” said Lentine. “I had the idea for this project already and wanted to learn how to bring it to life. A lot of principles I learned in my program are helpful in making things effective to foster education and personal development.”
The final pitch for the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge was held May 13 and included a Zoom presentation to a panel of judges with a live Q&A afterward. The winner of each track of the competition received a grand prize of $75,000.
“Even though we didn’t win, we received a lot of great feedback from the judges, advisors, and other industry professionals,” said Lentine. “The connections we’ve made and the knowledge we’ve gained can really help us move Crash Course forward.”
As for next steps, Lentine and Lee soon begin their Stern Venture Fellowship, a full-time, funded summer program during which they’ll continue developing their startup idea with the guidance and support of NYU Stern’s faculty, staff, alumni, and bi-coastal mentor community.