Microsoft Research project automates driver license tests in India

Microsoft Research has developed a smartphone-based driving test system. It uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make a fair analysis of a driver’s ability before issuing them a license. The system is currently at work at Dehradun Regional Transport Office (RTO) in Uttarakhand. Microsoft says the system is ready for a wider adoption across India and beyond.

Microsoft Research calls this tech ‘HAMS’, which is short for Harnessing AutoMobiles for Safety. “The main challenge in the traditional driver’s license test is the burden placed on the human evaluators and the resulting subjectivity that a candidate faces,” Venkat Padmanabhan, Deputy Managing Director, Microsoft Research India, said.

Padmanabhan started the HAMS project back in 2016. “Automation using HAMS technology can not only help relieve evaluators of the burden, but also make the process objective and transparent for candidates,” he adds. Driver license testing is a pressing problem in India. A SaveLIFE Foundation survey claims that 59 percent of the respondents did not give a test to obtain a license.

Microsoft’s HAMS at work

HAMS uses a smartphone’s front and rear cameras, and other sensors, to monitor the driver. For instance, it tracks the driver’s gaze. Simultaneously, the tech also monitors the road in front (for instance, the distance to the vehicle in front). It employs advanced AI models, which the team has developed for efficient and robust operation.

During driving tests, HAMS is capable of precisely track the vehicle’s trajectory during designated test maneuvers. These include parallel parking or negotiating a roundabout to name a few. This tracking enables HAMS to determine precisely whether the driver stopped in the middle of a manoeuvre for longer than is permitted or tried to course correct by rolling forward and backward alternately more times than allowed.

Today, if you take the driver’s license test at the Dehradun RTO, you will be doing so in just the company of a smartphone affixed to your car’s windshield. HAMS, running on the smartphone and on an edge server onsite at the testing track, will do the rest. It will also produce a detailed report shortly after you finish navigating through the test manoeuvres.

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