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Five levels of driving autonomy explained

A quick guide to the five levels of autonomous driving functions

autonomous car hands off

In the last couple of years one of the big talking points in the car world has been the development of self-driving/autonomous and semi-autonomous cars.

And with this discussion has come a table of the five levels of driving automation compiled by global engineering association, SAE International.

These five levels have been used in some news and advice pieces published both here and elsewhere, we thought then that it might be a good idea to provide an easy to understand guide to what each of the five levels are.

Five levels of driving autonomy explained:

Level 0

The vehicle is able to issue warnings but has no actual vehicle control (i.e. forward collision warning).

Level 1

This where the driver and the automated system share control over the vehicle.

An example of this would be adaptive cruise control where the driver controls the steering, but the car handles acceleration and braking.

Level 2

Often described as the first “hands off” level of automation, this is where the vehicles automation system takes full control of the vehicle (acceleration, braking, and steering).

At this level of automation, the driver must monitor what the car is doing and be prepared to intervene.

Level 3

This level of vehicle automation provides an “eyes off” driving experience and allows you to turn your attention away from driving tasks, for example you could watch a movie or write an email.

However, the driver must still be present and prepared to intervene should something go wrong.

Level 4

Another step above, at level 4 automation you would be able to take a nap and not have to monitor what the car is doing.

Level 5

At the extreme level of self-driving cars, level 5 automation would require no steering wheel or human intervention at all.

SAE say an example of this level of automation would be a robotic taxi (think ‘Johnny Cab’ from Total Recall).

We hope that helps.

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About Joel Helmes 3923 Articles

Joel is the founder and CEO of Behind the Wheel. Joel has a background as a radio broadcaster with on-air roles at 4BC, 4KQ, 2KY, 2LT and 2UE amongst others, as well as a news editor and program director.

Joel’s relationship with cars stems back to his early childhood learning to change oil and brakes with his father and uncle. This continued on into his driving years owning an assorted collection of cars.

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