by Sara Lacey

 

My son hopefully asked me the other day, “So, when do you think autonomous vehicles will be a practical reality? Like, in the next year?”

He is starting Driver’s Ed this summer, and if all things go according to plan, he will be getting his license next year. To be clear, my son is excited to drive. But there are just so many scary things about driving that can intimidate a newbie. I understand his hopes that autonomous vehicles could be an option for him sooner rather than later.

If you haven’t gone through the process of getting your license recently, there are some things that have changed. Every state is different, so if you’re just on the verge of having a teen driver, you’ll need to check out your state’s requirements. For example, the state of Colorado requires 30 hours of class time to attain a permit. Additionally, the license is graduated so a new teen driver cannot have anyone under the age of 21 in the vehicle with them for the first six months they have their license. After that they may not have more than one passenger under the age of 21 until they’ve had their license for one year. There is also a curfew — no driving between midnight and 5 a.m. until they’ve had their license for a year.

There are some exceptions to these rules, like if there is a parent in the vehicle or if it’s a medical emergency. All this is to drive home the point that you’ll want to do some investigating if your kid is going to drive soon.

Anyway, if your kid is like my son and hoping that some technological advancement can help out, there’s not much going on. Some driver’s education companies employ simulators, but in most cases you’ll need to add that to your kid’s driver’s ed program by paying a business that has simulators, like a virtual racing facility, actual racetrack, and most commonly, schools for commercial licensing. Simulators can be great; they put a new drivers in a particular virtual dangerous situation over and over again until they perfect the skill to get out of it successfully. Then, if they encounter that situation on the road, they will be familiar with it and more likely to maneuver safely.

The most visible use of technology’s big role on the front end of driver’s education is the fact that you can take classes online. This is helpful, especially for people with crowded schedules or who live far from driving schools. And of course, there are apps to track classroom hours and driving time. However, my hope is that the future brings more options for simulators and virtual training to add to the actual driver’s ed experience.

 

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