Self-driving cars are set to become the new normal within the next few years. But what exactly is a self-driving car, and is there more than one type? If you’re confused about what qualifications a car must meet to be considered self driving, here’s what you need to know about the different levels of automation according to SAE International.
This level features no automation. This means while the car might have some intervention or warning features, the driver is in control of the car, from accelerating and decelerating to steering and monitoring nearby cars.
At this level, the car is equipped with minor automation systems. For example, the systems within the car can help with steering, accelerating, and decelerating after monitoring the environment around the vehicle. But the driver can also perform these tasks and is responsible for the rest of the operations, as well. This describes most cars today, since many have driver assistance systems of some kind.
This level is referred to as partial automation, because an automated system in the car takes over the tasks of accelerating, decelerating, and steering. The driver can perform all other functions, such as monitoring the traffic nearby.
This level of self-driving cars is referred to as conditional automation, as the system takes over steering, acceleration, deceleration, and monitoring of the road. The car’s automated system then makes decisions—such as choosing to pass a slower car — based on that monitoring. However, the driver can take over all of these dynamic driving tasks when necessary.
At this level, the amount of automation is high. This is because the car can perform all the tasks it needs in order to drive. The system may request the driver to intervene with some tasks, but it can still handle the car even if the driver doesn’t help.
Self-driving cars at this level feature full automation. Since the automated systems are in full control, cars like this don’t need steering wheels, gas or brake pedals, or any other controls for drivers to operate.
In general, when people talk about the self-driving cars on the market now, they’re mostly referring to vehicles at level 3 or 4. These types of cars would allow you to get from point A to point B with very limited input. Most major car manufacturers, such as Honda, Ford, and Toyota, plan to have self driving cars around level 3 or 4 on the market by about 2020 or 2025. It’s estimated that we could see self-driving cars at level 5 by about 2030.
For now, it’s exciting to follow the progress companies are making as they strive to make self-driving cars available within the next few years. If you’re interested in buying a car that would allow you to sit back, relax, and enjoy your commute, make sure you stay updated on the latest strides those in this industry are making. You may be able to buy the self-driving car of your dreams sooner than you think.