Ivar Blikø is testing the GPS tool with his daughter who is about to take her driving test.
In practice, this is a “digital driving instructor”, says inventor, company founder and SINTEF scientist Ivar Blikø.
He is the man behind the idea, as well as being father to both 17-year-old Marianne Blikø, who is just about to take her driving test, and the new company GPS Training Tools as. The company is to put his invention on the market together with Norwegian driving schools.
This little device was developed in record time using methods developed in the course of the “LBS Innovation” research project, which has been supported by the Research Council of Norway.
The new product, which has been baptised “Letsdrive”, turns practice driving sessions into a dream for pupil and instructor. The specially programmed PDA is attached to the windscreen and give the driver an overview of where the car is, what the local speed limit is and which road signs need to be observed. Not only that; it can talk too. A female voice both asks relevant questions and gives the pupil useful advice and tips about what she should be aware of wherever she is at the moment.
The driving trainer has come into existence with the aid of scientists, educational experts, technologists, students and a Trondheim driving school.
The background for the development of this training system is that newly qualified drivers tend to be involved in many more accidents than more experienced ones. In order to deal with this problem, the authorities have lowered the age limit for learner drivers from 17 to 16, although most people only start driving practice sessions when they are about to take the test.
“We want to do something about this. This driving aid will help people to get more out of driving practice, because it offers pedagogical help through a series of lessons in the programme,” says Blikø.
At the moment, the specially programmed PDA can be rented from Trondheim's Heimdal Driving school, which helped to develop the product. In fact, the digital driving instructor is so advanced that it provides different comments and questions according to the time of day and year when you are out on a driving practice session.
For the time being, the system covers nine different routes in Trondheim. Each route concentrates on one topic, such as how to enter and leave a roundabout, or how to drive on a country road. More routes and programmes covering roads in other Norwegian cities are currently under development.
The research on which the product is based has recently been published in an international journal, and the product itself has already won its developers an innovation award.
Not so surprising, perhaps, because in practice, the new tuition aid offers pupils safe, pedagogically advanced driving practice, without the necessity for anyone other than the pupil and a companion with a driving licence to be in the car.