By on April 19, 2022

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]

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18 Comments on “GM Patents Autonomous Driving Instructor...”

  • avatar

    I foresee the wonderful day when your skill and responsibility driving a car, culled and analyzed through the miracle of internet telemetry, are incorporated into your overall social credit score.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s already done by some insurance companies.

      • 0 avatar

        I suspect that in the near future, failure to “opt in” to snitch systems will come with a surcharge. This intrusion by Corporate America is getting really bad. Forget any political help – both parties are whores to the Almighty Dollar. Maybe there will be a “DuckDuckGo” insurance company that keeps it’s nose out of your life but I doubt it…

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Posky

          I think Golden2Husky is onto something.

          However I am sad to announce that DuckDuckGo has started taking heat for engaging in the obligatory corporate censorship since the start of the war in Ukraine.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I’ll pay that surcharge all day and twice on Tuesday. Curious though, what if the hard data suggests that those opting out have fewer claims? Will we then get a discount?

  • avatar

    “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.”

    How many levels until we unlock the J-turn? (Asking for a friend.)

  • avatar

    Babies can’t adjust mirrors properly. He won’t be able to see anything out of that side mirror.

  • avatar

    Cute pic though!

  • avatar

    Is the instructor Johnny Cab?

  • avatar

    I think Progressive was the first insurance to come out with the plug in that monitors your vehicles every move in order to get a discount. There has never been a more honest company name.

  • avatar

    corrupt and incompetent.

  • avatar

    If it can hold back drivers until they can merge, I’m all for it.

    Once they’re in, they jump directly into the fast lane to be left alone, at or below the speed limit, but also to be free from other mergers that suck at it too. It’s just a whole bunch of suck.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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