Levels of Autonomous Driving: Towards Driverless Vehicles
Autonomous driving is a concept that describes the ability of cars to move on their own, independent of the driver. However, autonomous driving can occur at different levels, from the basic level such as simple cruise control, which has been around for 20 years, to fully autonomous vehicles. To determine these levels, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has defined 6 different levels from manual driving to fully autonomous driving. So what are these levels and which vehicles offer what level of autonomous driving? Here are their answers:
Level 0: Manual driving
At this level, the vehicle is completely controlled manually by the driver. It may include some assistive features, such as simple cruise control, but the vehicle in no way makes decisions or intervenes for the driver.
Level 1: Driver assistance
At this level, the vehicle assists the driver with features such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistant. However, the driver still has full control while driving and must always hold the steering wheel.
Level 2: Partial driving automation
At this level, the vehicle can perform some functions on its own, such as steering, acceleration and deceleration. However, the driver's eyes still need to be on the road. In systems such as Ford's Blue Cruise and GM's Super Cruise, there is no obligation to touch the steering wheel as long as you follow the road, but these systems are also considered Level 2 autonomous driving.
Level 3: Conditional automation
At this level, the vehicle can operate fully autonomously in certain conditions and in certain areas. The driver can take his hands off the steering wheel and keep his eyes on the road, but must be ready to intervene if necessary. The Drive Pilot system offered by Mercedes in the S and EQS series can be given as an example of this level of autonomous driving. The system allows autonomous driving on certain highways at speeds up to 64 km/h.
Level 4: High automation
At this level, the vehicle can operate completely autonomously in all conditions and areas. There is no need for driver intervention and it is possible to sit in the back seat and sleep. However, at this level, autonomous driving is limited to operating under certain conditions and in certain areas due to the lack of legal legislation and infrastructure. Although Waymo and Cruise's driverless taxis have Level 4 autonomous driving, there is no vehicle on general sale.
Level 5: Full automation
At this level, the vehicle can operate completely autonomously without any limitations. The vehicle does not have driver controls such as a steering wheel or accelerator pedal. The driver can lie down, watch TV or read a book while traveling. However, there is still a long way to reach this level.