According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which is responsible for regulating and standardizing mobility in aerospace and automotive engineering, there are five levels of automation in the driving of motor vehicles. Let’s break down each of them, from zero automation where the human assumes all driving tasks to full automation, where it would be practically dispensable.
There is no automation, no driving aids. Instead, the human being controls every aspect of the vehicle’s operation for 100% of the time of the trip.
Level 1: driving aids
Within certain limits, the vehicle will begin to control specific tasks such as steering for those cars equipped with lane-keeping assistants or adaptive or non-adaptive speed controls. These assistants are intended to start making journeys a little more comfortable and less tedious. They are simply an aid to improve the driving experience of vehicles equipped with them.
Despite capturing information from the environment, such as the position of other vehicles or horizontal or vertical signaling, the system will always delegate to the human the final decision to be taken at any given moment, so full and constant supervision is required.
Level 2: partial automation
At this level, thanks to a lidar stock together with other sensors of various types installed in different parts of the vehicle, the vehicle can act independently within some controlled scenarios. Systems in this category can perform one or more tasks previously performed by the driver simultaneously.
Level 3: conditional automation
From the third level of automation, we find a fundamental difference concerning the previous ones. In addition to assuming the essential tasks of driving the vehicle, the system can monitor the environment to know how to respond to certain unforeseen events.
As if it were capable of thinking for itself, this level of automation will be able to make the most appropriate decision, brake to avoid colliding with another vehicle crossing our path or change lanes. However, the human remains a necessary element because the system may require intervention when the software cannot act.
Level 4: high automation
The time will come when the evolution of autonomous driving systems will be perfected to the point of not requiring human intervention at any time. Instead, they will monitor traffic and environmental conditions, define the best route and alternatives, and know how to respond to every situation.
Here human supervision will become dispensable, and the car will react in the right way as long as the safety of the occupants is not put at risk. By using GPS and a lidar stock, the system will map its surroundings in real-time and know what is happening at any given moment without human input.
Level 5: full automation
This type of car has not yet materialized, and we can only see them on movie or television screens. However, the vehicle will be able to go anywhere on-demand without a steering wheel, pedals, and controls of any kind beyond an interface in which to enter our orders.
Level 5 means the total dehumanization of driving. We will get in our car, say the destination, and be able to use the time for any other activity we want.