With the rising stability and availability of AI-powered processing, one of the hot button concepts for the car industry has become the autonomous, or driverless, car. Large manufacturers, such as Volvo, Nissan, Mercedes, and Renault are already exhibiting fully-autonomous concept cars and even companies like Apple have involved themselves in the race to produce driverless vehicles.
But, what, exactly, does a driverless car mean? In this article, we’ll be looking at exactly that term means and what you can expect to be hitting the roads in the near future.
Different Levels of Autonomy
To make things even more complicated, the term driverless car doesn’t only mean one thing. It refers to a number of different levels of autonomy. The Society of Automotive Engineering has actually come up with five different levels of autonomous vehicles that have become the generally accepted definition.
Level 0 Automation
Level 0 automation is cars as we understand them at the moment. This means the driver is in full control of most of the vital functions of the vehicle, such as steering, braking, accelerating, parking, and reversing.
Level 1 Automation
Also known as “Driver Assistance”, this level of automation is already in use and has the driver maintain control over most of the vehicle’s systems while systems like adaptive cruise control assist them.
Level 2 Automation
Also known as partial automation, this is the current level of most autonomous cars. The car’s internal computer can assist with steering or acceleration functions, but the driver is responsible for monitoring the environment.
Level 3 Automation
Also known as conditional automation, this system uses sensors such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to allow the vehicle to monitor the environment and take control from the driver. Braking and steering are controlled by the car, but the driver can take control at any moment and must keep their hands on the wheel.
Level 4 Automation
This level of automation allows the vehicle to do much of the steering, braking, accelerating, monitoring the road, and responding to situations without driver input. While this level of automation is currently being tested, it still has some teething issues around complicated road conditions, such as traffic jams or merging in the road.
Level 5 Automation
Level 5 represents full automation, where the driver simply has to enter the destination and the vehicle will drive them to that location without input. There is some suggestion that, once this level of automation is available, cars won’t have steering wheels or acceleration and braking pedals.
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