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Driving into the Future: Transportation AI and Automated Driving Tests

a human hand receiving a car key from a robotic hand, showing an image of progress in automated driving and transportation AI

Getting a driver’s license is often considered a rite of passage. But in many areas of the world, resources for administering driver examinations are limited – too many applicants, not enough instructors. However, that may soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to a research team at Microsoft, automated driving license testing options may greatly improve driver opportunities. Through the use of transportation AI systems, both quality and accessibility to driver testing will likely advance.

For countries like India, attaining a driver’s license is harder than you might think. In recent surveys, more than half of the regions failed to offer driver license testing. The scarcity of these services stems from the fact that evaluators and testing resources are in short supply. And these resources are associated with significant expenses. As a result, an automated driving test system that eliminates the need for evaluators is attractive. And by using transportation AI platforms, driver assessments can be more accurately made. Such systems have potential not only in countries like India but also in nearly every place where drivers exist.

Transportation AI Technology Offers New Options

Roughly a decade ago, Microsoft deployed a research team to begin working on an automated driving test system. The automated driving platform was called HAMS, which stands for “Harnessing AutoMobiles for Safety”. Initially, HAMS was to serve as an automated driving instruction to improve driver training and overall safety. But the researchers soon expanded the transportation AI platform to conduct automated driving tests. In the past months, HAMS has now been employed in parts of India, assessing drivers’ abilities. In fact, in places like Uttarakhand, HAMS now performs automated driving licensing testing without the need for evaluators.

As a transportation AI system, HAMS utilizes a driver’s smartphone to conduct its automated driving license tests. Through the use of a smartphone’s front and rear cameras as well as other sensors, both vehicle and driver assessments can be made. For example, the transportation AI system monitors driver gaze, the road, vehicle trajectory, and a variety of vehicle movements. Depending on the driver’s performance, HAMS then recommends whether or not the automated driving test was completed successfully.

Automated Driving License Testing Doesn’t Mean Lower Quality

Some may presume an automated driving testing platform may allow an easier path toward attaining a license. That is certainly not the case for HAMS. Based on current statistics, the pass-fail rate using this transportation AI platform is about 50 percent. Because HAMS was initially designed to enhance driver safety, it actually increases driver awareness of proper driving techniques. And with a view from within the vehicle, HAMS provides a more practical assessment of a driver’s driving ability.

In addition to these quality-enhancing benefits, HAMS also provides additional advantages as a transportation AI platform. Specifically, HAMS can more effectively handle disputes if drivers feel they were inaccurately assessed. The automated driving test can be viewed by the driver afterward to highlight errors made. Therefore, HAMS offers a more objective and transparent process by which automated driving evaluations are handled.

The Rise of Transportation AI Systems

Automated driving tests are simply the latest among various transportation AI systems currently available today. In Europe, highway speeds are already being controlled through automated cameras and license plate detectors. The same is being tested in some states in highway work zones. In addition, Utility Inc.—in collaboration with Sony Imaging—has recently introduced automated or automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). These are being considered not only for law enforcement vehicles but also for parking lots, garages and some intersections.

cartoon of a man learning how to drive with a robot beside him giving him an automated driving test
With transportation AI and automated driving tests, accessibility to driver license testing will likely advance. What does that mean for soon-to-be drivers?

Without question, automated driving systems and transportation AI offers many benefits. They have the potential to reduce resource use while simultaneously advancing quality. And in some cases, they provide greater accessibility and opportunity for individuals while also promoting safety. The HAMS system is an excellent example of the potential these transportation AI systems offer. And given their initial success, it is likely these automated driving tools will become an increasing part of our lives.

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