Automating the Driver’s License Issue/Renewal and making our roads safer.
Everyone deserves a safe environment – be it inside our house, our work or even the road. Given that after our home and workplace, the third largest pie is most likely to be the roads, where we spend considerable amount of time through our daily commuting or traveling for other purposes, it is imperative that ensuring road safety goes long way into creating a safer society.
Being a data analytics professional, I tend to think how this field can help create a better society overall. And being a driving enthusiast, linking the two wasn’t a long shot.
What is wrong with the existing system of driver’s license issue/renewal?
The most obvious reason to automate anything is to eliminate human intervention. Removing human intervention is not only required to reduce unnecessary human effort utilization but also to remove subjectivity as well as corruption from the entire process. Secondly, the existing process depends on testing the driver for just one day for a few kilometers and deciding whether the driver is a safe driver for the next 5-10 years. While this system has been going on since long but doesn’t mean it is right.
Also, the current system of penalizing drivers is only based on violations (that too, if the violation is caught) or accidents. Also, in most of the cases, once the drivers clear the road test, they start thinking of themselves as James Bond and go back to their own unsafe driving habits – over-speeding, tailgating, lane cutting, suddenly accelerating/decelerating, not providing signals while turning or changing lanes and more.
How IVMS (In-Vehicle Monitoring System) Changes Things?
IVMS is not such a new concept. Largely based on “black box technology” used in the aviation, it is now finding applications in automobiles as well with some use cases such as that of Shell Global.
To begin with, I see it is possible to automate issue and renewal of the drivers license based on the data provided by these monitoring systems installed into the cars of the drivers. Based on the data collected on driver’s driving habits over the entire period of time and applying suitable algorithms, the system will determine whether a particular driver is a safe driver or not. These systems can also be used to downgrade a driver’s license category if the driver fails to maintain the driving standards. This will essentially ensure that the drivers follow the rules irrespective of whether there is a police car or not. It can essentially eliminate rash driving, unless the driver isn’t really worried about losing the license.
What can be under monitor?
Smooth accelerations gives greater control to the driver over the vehicle and also the vehicles/pedestrians around to adjust to the speed of a given vehicle. There can’t be any necessity for high acceleration rate.
Yes, in emergencies, there may be situations where you may need to decelerate very quickly or hit a short break. However, many times, these short breaks are also because drivers don’t pay attention on the road while driving as they may be busy quickly looking into a message on phone or chatting with the passenger next seat. Either of the reasons do not suggest good driving skills. Beyond certain limit, there can’t be any justification for high deceleration rates if the driver is vigilant enough.
Signaling during lane changes or turns
Signalling is the most fundamental medium of communication between drivers on the road. Failing to communicate results in crashes that are fatal at times. We already have software in the cars that alert if there is a lane departure without signaling. Taking it further, these software also store the number of times these alerts have been flagged for a given driver. In addition, any turning of the car without an indicator on, also indicate bad driving practice.
Distance from the car ahead vs speed
Many of us know the 3 second rule. Personally, I feel 3 seconds is more and, in practice, people generally keep about 1.5 to 2 seconds, which is still in the safe zone if you car’s breaks are working fine and you are attentive on the road. There are already software available in some cars that identify the distance between your car and the car ahead of you and determine if it is the safe distance or not. These systems can monitor whether the drivers maintain safe distance between the cars, taking into consideration the speeds as well. This can prevent tailgating which can be dangerous.
Road Speed Limit vs Car Speed
This might be a little tricky as it may require data about the speed limits of every road in a given geography. In general, there is a tolerance or 5-10% above the posted speed limit but beyond that, it can be dangerous for the driver as well as other cars around him/her. And this is perhaps the most violated rule while driving in most of the countries, once drivers acquire their licenses.
Not wearing seat belts can increase the severity of injuries or even fatality in an event of an accident. Seat belt is also one of the reasons you can get a ticket, if you are not wearing one. It is a good enough reason to fail a drive test as well. Cars, since more than a decade, already have alerts if the seat belt is not on and the car is in drive mode. It will not be something very difficult to track.
Complete Stops at Stop Signs
This might be stretching things a bit too far but then that’s what STOP signs are for – to stop. This one may have a little low weightage, and depending upon whether the violation is in the form of complete failure to stop at the STOP sign or partial stopping at the STOP sign, the penalty quotient can be determined.
In addition to these, the number of at-fault accidents and total number of violations can be other major determinants during the issue and renewal of the drivers licenses. The entire system can ensure that the drivers remain safe drivers throughout and not just during the driving tests, which is essentially the objective of the road safety. Also, as they say, never send a human to do a machine’s job – we can put human intelligence to better use rather than have them sit with a stranger whose driving habits they are not at all aware about.