An autonomy guide
Level 0: No automation
I don’t think there is any point dragging this out. Level 0 designation is given to a car that has no automated assistance technologies, with emphasis on the “automated assistance”. The vehicle however may feature the traditional fixed-speed cruise control or warning indication of an impending collision, without actually intervening. Simply any vehicle that falls into this category relies on a human interaction to dictate every driving action.
Level 1: Driver assistance
Almost majority of modern passenger cars fall into Level 1 scale. A vehicle must have at least one advanced driver-assistance feature, such as adaptive cruise control. Motion is still supervised by a human driver; however the vehicle is capable of maintaining its own speed under certain conditions. Lane-Departure warning technology also falls into this category. Any vehicle model with adaptive cruise control or lane- Departure warning technology is considered at least a Level 1 category.
Level 2: Partial automation
A Level 2 vehicle has two or more ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) that can control the braking, steering or acceleration of the vehicle. ADAS technology also includes adaptive cruise control, active lane- Departure warning system or automatic emergency braking. These assist features differ in sophistication, but are common features in most vehicles these days. However, it’s the synchronisation between these modules that helps them qualify for Level 2 status. All these technologies however doesn’t change the fact, a human driver must still actively monitor the vehicle’s progress and be ready to intervene at any time.
Level 3: Conditional automation
This is where things complicated. There is a very large gap in complexity comparatively speaking between Levels 2 and 3 against the tiny shift between level 1 and 2. At Level 3, vehicle is capable of taking full control and operating during select parts of a journey when certain operating conditions are met.
To achieve this level of automation requires advanced technologies such as sensor packages, hardware backups and sophisticated software to keep the car on the road and ensures the occupants are safe. The driver must still remain alert, even when the vehicle is self-driving, in the event of a failure.
Back in 2012 Google achieved Level 3 autonomy with its test vehicles, however the test results highlighted, that in majority of cases the drivers became too trusting and were therefore slow to retake control from the system when issues occurred. The collected test results ultimately led Google to decide against releasing the technology, and now it’s pursuing full Level 5 automation through its Waymo division.
Level 4: High automation
A Level 4 designation is given to a vehicle that is capable of completing an entire journey without driver intervention, or even operating without a driver at all. There may still have some constraints, such as vehicle may be geofenced to a certain area or the system could be restricted to operate beyond a certain speed during part of its journey.
A Level 4 vehicle most likely still maintain driver controls like a steering wheel and pedals for those instances in which a human driver may be required to assume control.
Level 5: Full automation
This is the golden goose, the forbidden fruit. Level 5 is the ultimate dream of self-driving vehicle developers. A Level 5 vehicle is capable of fully hands-off, driverless operation under all circumstances.
The vehicle at this level provides zero provisions for human control. There is no steering wheel, no pedals, no gear stick. The vehicle is in full control and is able to complete all part of journey without the need of human driver to take any part. Vehicle’s passenger would be able to, in theory, kick up their feet and play an online game, do their shopping or even possibly host a meeting, wholly unconcerned about the act of driving.
n the USA, General Motors has been the most advocate and vocal about pushing for a commercially viable Level 5 vehicle, with its Cruise autonomous test vehicles. However, due to lack of solid test data many in the industry are concerned that General Motors may la lot further from achieving true Level 5 autonomy than it believes.
It’s hard to imagine a world where Level 5 autonomous vehicles become normal and available to all. This new way of transportation raises many concerns and challenges both logistically and technological.
If that happens, this would change the way that we live. The technological advances that is required to achieve this dream, would simply means We’d be no longer concerned with traffic or traffic safety.
It also raises number of questions such as; do we still need to apply for a license? Do we need to buy and own a car? Do we need insurance policy and therefore how the insurance companies will deal with this? Ultimately, at the rate of technological advancements we are currently witnessing, achieving level 3 or 4 is within our grasp, however it will likely be a long time before Level 5 becomes a reality.
The question no longer is if it actually happens at all, but when it will happen, and when it does happen what is the impact to motoring industry and motoring life in general. There are exciting times ahead and nothing is set into the proverbial stone, there will be challenges and setbacks, but with technology being the 21st century magic and at our disposal this little dream will come.