The six au­ton­omy lev­els

A break­down of self-driv­ing clas­si­fi­ca­tions

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - DE­NIS DROPPA

SELF-DRIV­ING cars (or au­topi­lot or au­tonomous cars if you pre­fer) are no longer science fic­tion but a near-re­al­ity. Un­til we reach a point in the next few years where we can sit back and let our cars drive us to our des­ti­na­tions all by them­selves how­ever, there is a tran­si­tional road to fol­low with ve­hi­cles in var­i­ous stages of au­topi­lot readi­ness.

To cut through the con­fu­sion, the So­ci­ety of Automotive En­gi­neers (SAE) In­ter­na­tional has come up with a clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem iden­ti­fy­ing six lev­els of driv­ing au­to­ma­tion from “no au­to­ma­tion” to “full au­to­ma­tion”, ex­plained here: LEVEL 0 No Au­to­ma­tion. The hu­man does all the work. LEVEL 1 Driver As­sis­tance. The car per­forms a sim­ple task like cruise con­trol, where the car holds a speed cho­sen by the driver. LEVEL 2 Par­tial Au­to­ma­tion. The car helps out with more than one task, as­sist­ing with both steer­ing and ac­cel­er­a­tion/ de­cel­er­a­tion. The car can main­tain its speed, slow down to avoid other cars or pedes­tri­ans, and stay in its lane. A num­ber of cars on sale al­ready fea­ture this tech­nol­ogy. LEVEL 3 Con­di­tional Au­to­ma­tion. The new Audi A8 due for launch later this year will most likely be the first pro­duc­tion car with this level, which means the car can make more com­plex de­ci­sions. In­stead of brak­ing to avoid hit­ting a sud­denly-stopped minibus taxi, it can look around, de­cide to change lanes, and pass (un­til the next minibus cuts it off). The hu­man driver still needs to take over in cer­tain cases, for in­stance if the road’s painted lines dis­ap­pear. LEVEL 4 High Au­to­ma­tion. The car can han­dle any driv­ing sit­u­a­tion by it­self in most en­vi­ron­ments, even if the hu­man driver doesn’t re­spond to a re­quest to in­ter­vene. LEVEL 5 Full Au­to­ma­tion. No steer­ing wheel needed. Say “take me home” and sit back and check your emails or watch a movie while the car nav­i­gates its way through the traf­fic.

We’re not there yet, but “Home James” au­topi­lot is com­ing.

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