Automated technology could spell end for driving test

Parking assist, lane change systems, automatic braking lessen driver tasks

Published: August 7, 2018, 8:45 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:00 PM

Driver free to relax with autonomous drive

With the rapid pace of technology in our vehicles, one thing is certain … the driving test we took oh so long ago and has remained mostly unchanged, is going to probably change.

Think about one of the staples of the driving test — parallel parking. With the proliferation of parking assist, the next time a new driver is asked to parallel park, he or she can just push a button to perform the manoeuvre perfectly, the first time.

“No,” says the evaluator. “I want you to show me you can do it, in case you’re in a car that doesn’t have it.”

But my car has it. This is how I parallel park … perfectly. Every time.

And it’s not just parallel parking that will have to be modernized in the future driving test. The driving test needs to adapt to the rollout of technology to make sure drivers are properly prepared to drive with the latest systems. Airbags changed the way we steered in emergencies, and anti-lock braking made us discard old non-sliding tricks.

“Vehicle autonomy will undoubtedly be the greatest driver of change in the automotive sector has ever witnessed,” says Matt Freeman, a consultant with UK automotive data and software solutions provider HPI. “We can expect this to impact every single facet of the motor industry from the way vehicles are made, to the way they are sold, to the way they are driven.”

Among the changes new drivers will have to get used to is the interconnectivity between vehicles, infrastructure and other road users, including pedestrians. It will help cut down on crashes but may take some getting used to when the car reacts to an emergency before the driver is even aware there may be one.

Staying in your lane will be a foregone conclusion, with lane changes and merges performed automatically. There’s even the possibility that the steering wheel will become extinct as people spend more time socializing, working or even catching up on their sleep. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for future drivers may well be retaining their attention.

“Ultimately, the car will become a pod in which people travel to and from their destinations,” says Freeman. “They will be able to do other things such as work online, have conversations, play games or even sleep while in transit so the need for road awareness, directions and understanding road signs and signals will be redundant.

“For the majority of drivers, driving is a chore, and the banality of modern commuting will push an increasing number of people to explore the technology,” he concluded.

Mercedes-Benz F015 concept vehicle.