Simulated driving tests do not contribute to driving

February 5, 2024 | 03:09 pm PT
Vo Nhat Vinh Researcher
I recently followed Phuoc, a friend, to a driving license test session. That day, he participated in the computer-based simulation test. Phuoc said that the test was "ridiculously difficult."

After seeing the test, I somewhat understood Phuoc's sentiment. My friend, in his late 40s, owns an automobile component retailing store.

After many years of working and saving, he wants to purchase a car. He is meticulous and careful, two very good qualities for drivers, and has handled automobile components for many years.

Despite being able to drive real cars just fine, Phuoc struggled with the computer-based simulation test. Phuoc cannot understand why he has to pass a computer game to drive a car.

Before witnessing the test, I assumed the simulation test would have a simulated interior of a car, with wheels, break, accelerator, etc.

In France, many driving training facilities have similar simulation rooms to help new students get more used to the car interior and operation and reduce tensions. Nevertheless, such simulation driving rooms do not show strong effectiveness in teaching others how to drive.

The most redeeming quality of this training method is the reduced cost, as students could practice by themselves without the need of an instructor.

The simulation test in Vietnam, which Phuoc took, does not have anything remotely like the interior of a car. Instead, the test is conducted on a normal computer. Test takers, upon wishing to slow the car down, hit the keyboard instead of a break.

Learners use driving simulators. Photo by VnExpress/Loc Chung

Learners use driving simulators in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Loc Chung

On Jan. 5 this year, Vietnam's Department of Roads announced that the car simulation test would be updated from Feb. 1, with improved smoothness and more prolonged reaction time for students.

These changes are subjective, and do not change the nature of the simulation test. I ask, why do we need to test computer proficiency and keyboard reaction time for driving?

The simulation test, in my opinion, should be completely dismissed or changed to actually simulate real driving conditions.

First, there are three components of driving, understanding the regulations of the road, the ability of apply such regulations in an actual vehicle, and the management of speed according to the road regulations.

The current simulation test on a normal computer, frankly, has almost no contribution to any of the aforementioned components of driving.

Second, simulated driving requires a system in which the real-life driving conditions are simulated as closely as possible, while some conditions, like the stress of operating a vehicle on the actual road, are controlled.

The simulation is only be beneficial if they have close similarities with actual driving. Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, even in other countries like France, such simulated driving lessons are not common and would only be adopted to help completely new learners to train without the initial driving stress.

The simulation does not contribute much to the training, let alone adopting the simulation as part of the license testing procedures.

Vietnam’s Department of Roads, upon adopting the procedure, attempted to adopt something new, without questioning what is the core contributions of such procedure.

No matter how advanced the simulation software is, if not accompanied by the driving hardware, it does not contribute much to the learning experience of students learning how to drive and test takers attempting to get the license.

The most recent decision by the Vietnamese authorities to keep the simulation tests was a big disappointment to Phuoc.

He has to continue to struggle with a keyboard instead of a wheel to earn his right to drive.

*Vo Nhat Vinh is an R&D expert based in France.

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