In an exclusive interview with Public Technology, digital chief at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Alex Fiddes, unveils the DVSA’s blueprint for the future of driver testing in the UK. Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the DVSA is making great strides in introducing tech to driver testing.
In April, the DVSA launched 30-second video clips, each showing different driving scenarios, which replaced written case studies. Fiddes said that this is just one of many incremental changes that the DVSA has planned to digitise driver testing.
Already, the DVSA is exploring the possibility of implementing virtual reality headsets as part of the theory test, to make video clips more lifelike and immersive. The DVSA is also looking at how the driving theory test is conducted. Longer-term, the agency hopes to make the theory test available remotely, online.
However, in order to make the theory test available remotely, Fiddes acknowledged that there needs to be significant developments in biometric tools to combat the security challenges. Fiddes said: “Eye-tracking and facial recognition…. on a small scale these products are available, but that hasn’t really scaled up into a really secure service.”
Technological changes to practical driver testing
While technological changes to the driving theory test continue to be a work in progress, practical driver testing has already seen some advancements. Fiddes said: “The DVSA’s fleet of almost 1,700 driving examiners are now all equipped with iPads, with which they mark candidates.”
As a result, the DVSA has reduced its paper usage by around three million sheets a year. Plus, switching to a digital marking system has meant that information can be circulated more freely, quickly and securely.
Fiddes said: “The in-car iPads allow examiners, at the end of the test, to automatically transfer the data to the DVSA and email the candidate with their result.”
The DVSA has said that its goal is not to turn to technology for the sake of it, but to improve the experience for theory test and practical driving test candidates, while improving workflow for the agency’s employees.
However, the DVSA’s digital chief did acknowledge that technology is not the solution for everything. Fiddes said: “Digital is not the right approach for everything, and sometimes you have to be brave enough to say ‘we need to stop’.”
The DVSA remains true to its objective, whether that’s through the use of technology or not, to make Britain’s roads and drivers safer, and giving them a better experience during a lifetime of safe driving.
Booking a Driving Theory Test
UK theory tests are currently suspended until 31 May, 2020. However, the suspension doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for your theory test once lockdown measures are lifted. Our site is packed with free resources you can use to get ready for your theory test.