GM Patents Autonomous Driving Instructor

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

General Motors has filed a patent for a driver-training system that utilizes a vehicle’s onboard sensing equipment to determine how well a novice motorist is handling themselves behind the wheel.

The objective is to offer driver education without the help of a flesh-and-blood instructor being present. Instead, the autonomous vehicle limits the amount of control offered to the student while constantly monitoring their progress. If they score well enough, additional freedom is awarded to the driver and the process begins again — this time with the vehicle looking to evaluate more advanced maneuvers while still keeping tabs on the basics. It’s quite a bit different than the standard practice of having someone sit beside you to take stock of your budding driving skills. But GM thinks it might have future applications and probably wants to lock it in with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) before anybody else does.

This is supported by the highly generalized language used in the filing, first shared by Motor1. While we’ve no doubt that the company (and probably a few others) have been working on the concept of a computer-controlled driving instructor, there’s not much to the abstract. There’s also some word soup in the summary with plenty of wiggle room for implementation. The filing casts a wide net for how this system would actually work, likely as a way to keep itself covered in terms of design variation. But that’s fairly standard for USPTO filings.

From the abstract:

In accordance with an exemplary embodiment, a method is provided for training a trainee using an autonomous vehicle, the method including; measuring, via one or more sensors, one or more manual inputs from the trainee with respect to controlling the autonomous vehicle; determining, via a processor using an autonomous driving algorithm stored in a memory of the autonomous vehicle, one or more recommended actions for the autonomous vehicle; comparing, via the processor, the one or more manual inputs from the trainee with one or more recommended actions for that autonomous vehicle, generating a comparison; and determining, via the processor, a score for the trainee based on the comparison between the one or more manual inputs from the trainee with the one or more recommended actions for the autonomous vehicle.

It’s almost tragic that the people working at the patent office have to read stuff like this all day and I’m genuinely sorry you just had to spend a moment in their shoes. But the gist is that GM has come up with a concept and would like to retain control before one of its rivals come up with something similar.

The automaker says the assumed benefits include the elimination of any instructor bias and reduced cost of existing training programs. Theoretically, this could be a feature General Motors’ simply bakes into future products (assuming self-driving cars ever go mainstream), sells via an over-the-air update, or loans out to driving schools. As a byproduct, the system could also amass value driving data for the company. As for the hardware required, GM left things pretty vague. However the paper does make reference to camera arrays, lidar, and global positioning systems (GPS) that have been integrated into vehicles as potential solutions. Other than that, cars would need to have an onboard processor to evaluate how well the trainee is progressing and keep its own self-driving capabilities on task.

But the manufacturer did admit that there could be a few blind spots, most notably the possibility that a human driver would need to assume complete control of an autonomous vehicle on occasion. This includes instances where some of the sensing equipment becomes damaged or obscured and whenever the car finds itself on an unmapped road it doesn’t know how to navigate.

[Image: Demskoy Studio/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 18 comments
  • TDIGuy TDIGuy on Apr 22, 2022

    Since a learner's permit driver needs to have a licensed driver in the car with them anyway, it will just become one more way for a parent to be with their kid without interacting with them. However knowing where I went and what I got up to trying to keep up to my buddy's Chevelle, despite my dad's mid 80's V6 Pontiac wagon, if it can report back the telemetry on where my fully-licensed teen went with the car, I'm all for it.

  • 4runner 4runner on Apr 22, 2022

    The headline is a bit deceiving. At this stage, this is only a patent application, so it can't be considered patented, so "GM Patents . . ." would be incorrect. I checked the publicly accessible file and it still has not yet been examined.

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.