Not Science Fiction, Automated Driving License Tests Now a Reality

With a single smartphone on the car's windshield, the technology cuts down on costs required for automation and reduces the subjectivity attached to any human evaluation.

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For many, the process of getting a driving license in India is still a distant thought. A research project by global tech giant Microsoft is trying to make it easier.

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In a first, the Microsoft-powered project—Harnessing AutoMobiles for Safety (HAMS)—has found takers at the regional transport office (RTO) in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The test, erstwhile conducted by a human evaluator, would now be possible with a smartphone attached to the windshield.

In 2017, a 10-city survey conducted by SaveLIFE Foundation found 59% of the respondents had not given a test to attain their driving license.

"The main challenge in the traditional driver's license test is the burden placed on human evaluators and the resulting subjectivity that a candidate faces," Microsoft Research India's deputy managing director Venkat Padmanabhan said in a statement.


"HAMS stems from a line of work that I started, along with colleagues, when I returned to India from the US a decade ago and was aghast at the chaotic traffic on the roads," Padmanabhan said.

According to the statement, while some RTOs in India are using automation via extensive infrastructure such as pole-mounted video cameras along the length of the test track, HAMS' technology costs much lesser.

A view from inside the vehicle also tests the participant more thoroughly, for instance, by checking if the driver looked at the mirrors before changing lanes.

"Due to the comprehensive nature of testing, just about 50 per cent candidates pass the test, ensuring that only qualified drivers are given a driver's license," said Akshay Nambi, who started the project with Padmanabhan in 2016 and is currently a senior researcher at Microsoft Research India.

In case of a disagreement, a participant also has the option to see the video recording later.

The technology also makes "the process objective and transparent for candidates", Padmanabhan said.

How Does It Work?

HAMS uses a smartphone's front and rear cameras, and other sensors to monitor the driver and the road simultaneously. The project uses advanced artificial intelligence, the statement said.

For driving tests, it has been customized to include features such as precise tracking of a vehicle's trajectory during designated test manoeuvres.

Soon after a driving test is over, HAMS produces a detailed report.