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A driving school in Onojo, Fukuoka Prefecture, has started using an artificial intelligence-based system on a trial basis to evaluate students’ driving skills.

It is the first time for a driving school in Japan to introduce such a system for evaluating skills. The AI technology analyzes a variety of data, including the route the vehicle traveled and its speed, as well as the movements of the driver’s eyes.

Such a system is expected to reduce instructors’ workload and ensure appropriate evaluation amid increasing demand for driving lessons for elderly drivers.

This month, Minami Fukuoka Driver’s School, operated by Onojo-based Minami Holdings, introduced the AI-based system, developed jointly by Tokyo-based Tier IV Inc. and Brain IV Inc., based in Nagoya, both of which develop systems for autonomous driving.

The school plans to use the system in lessons for workers of companies related to the use of company vehicles for the time being.

A device to measure the distance between the vehicle and surrounding objects using a laser, mounted on the roof of a training vehicle, collects data on the route, speed and timing of changing lanes. A camera installed inside the vehicle checks movements of the driver’s face and eyes.

Such data will be evaluated by AI, and a video suggesting points that could be improved will be shown on a tablet inside the vehicle after driving.

Behind the development of such a system is a surge in demand for lessons for older drivers.

The number of driver’s license holders aged 70 or above in Japan has grown about 10-fold from 30 years ago to some 11.3 million.

Beginning in 2022, older drivers at high risk of causing accidents will be required to pass a driving test in order to renew their licenses.

On the other hand, concerns are mounting over the increasing workload on instructors, with nearly 100 driver’s schools designated by prefectural public safety commissions having been closed in the past 10 years across the country.

Minami Holdings aims to introduce the AI system for lessons aimed at securing new driver’s licenses in around 2022.

By letting AI evaluate students’ driving skills, instructors will be able to “focus on work only humans can do,” such as giving advice suitable for each student’s personality, an official of Minami Holdings said.

“Having both humans and AI can create new values,” Yoshiro Egami, president of the company, said.

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