Vehicle autonomy has been a hot topic of conversation in recent years. There was once a time when the thought of self-driving autonomous vehicles being on the road was something you’d only see in a movie. However, they are closer than we think! By 2025, researchers expect to see roughly 8 million autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles on the road. Now, more than ever is the best time to understand where we are with the six levels of vehicle autonomy. From basic systems to the most cutting-edge automobiles, isure has everything you need to know when it comes to vehicle autonomy.

First, what are autonomous cars?

To understand the six levels of vehicle autonomy, we must first understand what autonomous vehicles are. Essentially, autonomous vehicles are exactly what they sound like, self-driving cars!  While we maneuver through the six stages of vehicle autonomy, companies such as Tesla, BMW, Volvo, and Nissan are all part of the race to produce cars that will physically drive themselves.

As we approach the halfway point of 2024, we have yet to see these vehicles on the road in Canada. However, the Ontario government has given manufacturers and researchers the go-ahead to begin testing on public roads with nobody behind the wheel.

Six levels of vehicle autonomy

Every day, companies make progress in the world of vehicle autonomy. This is why we need to understand what the six levels of vehicle autonomy are. These levels were defined by The Society of Automotive Engineers and expanded from 0 (fully manual) to 5 (fully automatic).

0. No Driving Automation

All vehicles you see on the road today are typically at Level 0. This means they are completely controlled by the human behind the wheel. With this said, a car can still be a Level 0 but have systems in place to assist the driver. An example of this can be the emergency brake on a car. It is designed to help the driver, but it doesn’t drive the vehicle for you.

1. Driver Assistance

Level 1 is considered the lowest level of automation. This means the car contains a single automated system for driving assistance. An example of this is systems that improve steering or acceleration, such as cruise control. With cruise control, your vehicle will stay a safe distance behind the car in front of you, providing you with some assistance. However, a human driver must still be monitoring the vehicle when it comes to steering or braking.

2. Partial Driving Automation

Level 2 means the vehicle contains an advanced driver assistance system. This means it can control both steering and acceleration. This falls short of full automation since a human driver must still sit in the seat and take control of the car at any time. Currently, Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise systems are some of the only systems that qualify for Level 2 automation.

3. Conditional Driving Automation

The jump from Level 2 to Level 3 is considered the biggest in this list. Level 3 vehicles have what is known as “environmental detection capabilities.” This means the vehicle can make an informed decision on its own. An example of this is accelerating past a slow-moving vehicle, or lane/blind-spot assist. With all of this in mind, it still requires a human in the driver’s seat. The driver must remain alert and ready to take control if the system is unable to perform the task. The first example of environmental detection was seen roughly two years ago when Audi released the newest generation A8, their flagship sedan.

4. High Driving Automation

Levels 3 and 4 are quite similar in many aspects. The main difference is that if the automation capabilities go wrong or fail, Level 4 vehicles can intervene. This means that in most scenarios, these cars do not require human interaction. However, it is still recommended to have a driver in control, as they will have the option to manually override. Since the technology has yet to be perfected, Level 4 vehicles are only able to operate in a limited area. This is known as geofencing. An example of this is NAVYA, a French company that is currently creating Level 4 cabs in the U.S. These fully electric vehicles can reach a top speed of 55 mph.

5. Full Driving Automation

Lastly, we have Level 5. This is the final level and does not require human attention. The entire “dynamic driving task” is eliminated. Amazingly enough, Level 5 cars won’t have steering wheels or acceleration/braking pedals. This means they will also be completely free from geofencing, allowing you to go anywhere you need to go! There are multiple parts of the world where fully automatic vehicles are being tested, yet none are available to the public.

Levels of vehicle autonomy: A look to the future

While the future of vehicle autonomy is looking bright, we are still a ways away from seeing anything higher than Level 2 on the average highway. This is due to the lack of security currently implemented. After Synopsys did a study on the future of vehicle autonomy, they found that software in the automotive supply chain presents a greater risk. Until it is keeping pace with the technology in the auto industry, more progress is to be made on vehicle autonomy.

The world of vehicle autonomy is both daunting and exciting. If you have any questions regarding telematics insurance or simply a standard policy for your vehicle, isure has you covered! Contact us or request a quote today.

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