Motoring

How tech could change the way we learn to drive

Driving test
Written by Steven White

Driving tests have been changing for a while now – but what part does technology play in it?

The driving theory test was introduced in 1996 and recent years have seen classic manoeuvres – such as the turn in the road – replaced by sat nav driving.

All this change is driven by modern driving behaviours, which have been shaped by a growing emphasis on using assistive technology.

With the rise of self-driving vehicles, some have questioned if we will even need to take driving tests in the future. But for now, it looks like operating a fully autonomous car is likely to require a special kind of testing.

Advanced theory testing

The driving theory test has become the largest high stakes test in the world, with more than two million tests taken each year. Since 2012, CGI has been helping to introduce new weather conditions and dangerous-to-film scenarios to the hazard perception element.

In the future, virtual reality might help to make the theory test more immersive – and therefore educational – than ever before. Evidence suggests virtual reality testing can provide a more accurate look at hazard perception skills, since the gap between experienced and learner drivers’ performance widens under VR conditions.

Technology knowledge tests

Modern cars come equipped with more technology than ever before. Parking sensors, lane assist technology and cruise control help drivers today just as much as speedometers and sat navs.

The current driving test allows for use of assistants such as e-hand brakes and hill assist technology, but lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring technology is still banned.

As we move towards greater automation, it is likely that more technology will be incorporated into the practical test. At the very least, would-be motorists will be quizzed on their car’s technology just as drivers of the past have been asked to recite car maintenance knowledge.

Mass retesting, with a focus on focus

For most people, learning to drive is a rite of passage we only need to go through once. The advent of vehicle automation could change this, however, with some calling for mass retesting when self-driving cars become common.

Seizing control from the car is likely to become a vital safety skill when cars can drive themselves – and it’s not something current drivers are practiced at. That’s why new driving tests with an emphasis on sharp focus and quick reaction times could play an important role in setting future car insurance premiums.

According to a report into the impact of driverless cars, nearly a quarter of people feel apprehensive about driverless cars and a fifth are fearful. This is why it is so important that the public is upskilled so they feel confident behind the wheel.

For now, there’s no need to worry – while fully autonomous cars could hit the roads in the 2020s, Britain’s roads won’t be fully autonomous until about 2070.

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