Levels of Driving Automation

The automated driving system (ADS) is on everyone's lips now. Google, Microsoft, Tesla, Mercedes, BMW, Bosch, Continental, Panasonic - only orange juice brands are not working on autopilot today. Let's try to understand the subtleties of the concept "autopilot".

Most automobile conglomerates are currently working on the development of self-driving vehicles. Cars, buses, driverless taxis, delivery drones — you can hear more and more about such things today. And this is no longer fiction. However, vehicles with a real ADS are still being tested.

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According to various companies and organizations, fully automated vehicles will significantly drive out other cars on the world's roads in 2025-2050. This means that cars will not only drive automatically but will also be able to “communicate” with the surrounding infrastructure, traffic lights, traffic control centers and each other using Car-to-Car systems. A huge number of electronic systems and technologies are necessary for the ADS operation, some of which are already effectively used in advanced vehicles.

What is autopilot? A simple definition is as follows: «Autopilot — a device or system used to control the trajectory of a vehicle without constant manual control by a human driver being required.” On the one hand, everything is clear but there are still some questions unanswered.

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Thus, the definition “autopilot” remained fairly generalized for a long time. Not so long ago, when the first Tesla Model S was released, the need for several important things became obvious: the creation of infrastructure and regulatory environment for such equipment, as well as the qualification of such vehicles with the ADS.

One of the organizations that proposed a more precise definition of autopilot and classification of such systems was the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since the organization's researchers tested real examples of autopilots from large companies as Google and Tesla, it can be stated that the NHTSA’s classification is the most complete and up-to-date.

Also, the classification of autopilots is attributed to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). So, you can frequently find these two abbreviations in various sources. Anyway, most automakers use this classification to indicate the level of driving automation.

Levels of driving automation


LevelDescription
0No auxiliary systems, perhaps the presence of forward collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems.
Hands on the steering wheel, eyes on the road.
1Auxiliary and safety systems: ABS, ESP, cruise control (including ACC), Intelligent Parking Assist System, Lane Keep Assist.
Hands on the steering wheel, eyes on the road.
2Systems of both steering and acceleration/deceleration, plus systems of a Level 1.
No control of the speed and steering of the vehicle. The driver must be on guard.
3The driver has an opportunity not to control the car on roads with predictable traffic (for example, on highways), but he must be ready to intervene.
No control of the speed and steering of the vehicle. The driver must be ready to intervene in critical and emergency situations.
4It is similar to a Level 3, but the driver’s attention is no longer required even on roads with heavy traffic (for example, in a city).
The system is in complete control of the vehicle. The driver can even sleep while driving.
5Human presence in no longer needed: 100% driving automation. The driver only needs to turn on the system and set a destination.
The car can be controlled remotely, for example via smartphone.

In fact, drivers have long used semi-automated vehicles. Some modern car functions do not require human intervention. Cruise Control is already a fairly high automated system. In general, independent systems can even include the function of turning on the light when opening the car doors.

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