UMTRI Researchers Suggest Autonomous Vehicles Pass a Licensing Test

Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) are suggesting that self-driving vehicles should be required to pass a licensing test.

Most driver-licensing tests evaluate three aspects of driving readiness, they observed: visual performance; knowledge of rules and regulations related to driving and traffic in general; and driving-related psychomotor skills. The reasons for the need to test prospective drivers are that:

  1. Vision is essential for driving;
  2. Driving and traffic laws and regulations need to be learned and followed;
  3. Driving-related skills need to be acquired through practice; and
  4. People differ in performance for all of the above aspects.

In a new UMTRI white paper, they suggest a number arguments in support of their proposal for testing autonomous vehicle as well:

  1. Sensing hardware, spatial maps, and software algorithms will vary among manufacturers of self-driving vehicles, resulting in variability of on-road performance—as is the case with humans.
  2. Visual and sensing performance of self-driving vehicles in inclement weather is not yet sufficient.
  3. Visual-pattern recognition is a potential problem for current sensing systems in self-driving vehicles.
  4. Current self-driving vehicles have not yet been tested thoroughly under a variety of demanding conditions (e.g., in snow).
  5. On-road performance of some current self-driving vehicles is not yet perfect, even in good weather.
  6. Self-driving vehicles will face, on rare occasions, ethical dilemmas in their decision-making.

Read the study’s abstract: Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle (2015) “Should We Require Licensing Tests and Graduated Licensing for Self-Driving Vehicles?” UMTRI-2015-33.

Aaron Turpen
An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at