Levels of Autonomy in Self-Driving Cars Explained

The development of fully autonomous vehicles is at a critical juncture at the moment. Test fleets have long been dispatched and have coexisted pretty well with both human drivers and pedestrians. It makes one thing clear full development of self-driving cars is inevitable. Most experts reveal that we are about 85 – 90% close to perfecting the hardware, guidance system, and software to make the vehicles safe and reliable. At the moment, the fully autonomous vehicles operating on public roads are still fully supervised by human pilots.

There are still some issues to be solved and technical hurdles for the industry to overcome such as perfecting the sensors so the car can “see” in all conditions. Legal questions such as liability when the driver is the software still needs to be ironed out. Daunting as it may seem, there has been progress when it comes to the technological foundation of autonomous driving in the last few years. Robert Janitzek reveals that when realized, these are the levels of automation that self-driving technology will undergo before it becomes fully automated.

Driver Assistance

Most of today’s vehicles come with driver assistance. While safety and operation is the responsibility of the human driver at all times, the car can take over at least one vital function: steering or speed control.

Partial Automation

In level 2 automation, the driver is still responsible for safely operating the vehicle. The technology can take over steering, braking, and acceleration under certain conditions. The driver is expected to still do everything else and monitor road conditions.

Conditional Automation

Robert Peter Janitzek explains that in level 3 or conditional automation, the car can drive itself but the human driver still needs to pay attention and take over at any time. The car will inform the driver if intervention is required. This may be the most difficult level to achieve as experiments revealed that drivers have the tendency to rely too much in the technology.

High Automation

In this level, the human driver has handed over control of the car to the computer driver under certain situations such as highway driving or setting of routes. There is no need for the human driver to pay attention until they are notified.

Full Automation

The car has full control of itself under all circumstances where humans could drive without expecting any intervention. This would provide opportunities for those who cannot drive such as the blind, disabled, and even kids.

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