Have you ever wondered about a future where fully autonomous cars dominate the roads, and how this will impact your life? How will the way we live, work, interact socially, and care for the needy, disabled and elderly change when we expect vehicles to be able to drive themselves safely from point to point and be beckoned at any time? A machine performing intelligent actions without human supervision is one of the long-time dreams for AI and is rapidly becoming closer to reality.
Understanding the Levels of Vehicle Autonomy
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) classify six levels of capability for autonomous cars, starting from completely human-operated vehicles at Level 0 to fully autonomous vehicles at Level 5. Companies such as Tesla, Ford, Toyota, Uber, Volvo, and others have been working very heavily to reach the ultimate goal of Level 5 autonomous vehicle operation. Self-driving cars are becoming closer and closer to becoming a reality.
However, how do we judge the quality and the real autonomous nature of a car? The six levels of vehicle autonomy help determine autonomous vehicle capabilities. At the lowest levels of the spectrum, Level 0 cars have no autonomous features. This means that the driver must be fully in control of the vehicle while driving and the driver is fully piloting without any autonomous machine features. More than 80% of the vehicles on the road today are still at level 0 autonomy.
At Level 1 autonomy, vehicles can perform just one autonomous task at a time. These cars mostly feature autonomous safety-oriented features, such as automatic lane keeping or adaptive cruise control for safety. The driver still needs to be fully cognizant and in control of the driving. Many newer cars on the road today have level 1 autonomous features, and what was once perceived to be an optional product offering is rapidly becoming standard.
At Level 2 autonomy, vehicles can perform two autonomous tasks at a time. These level 2 cars can steer and lane-keep, or auto-brake and operative adaptive cruise control. A good example of a level 2 autonomous car is Tesla’s Autopilot. However, at Level 2, just like levels 0 and 1, the driver must be in control during travel in the vehicle.
Designing AI That Knows How You Feel
At Level 3 autonomy, the vehicle provides “conditional autonomy.” That means that the vehicle can only be self-driving mode in certain conditions. These conditions are usually good weather and the vehicle also needs to be in a geo-fenced area. A great example of a level 3 autonomous car is the Audi A8. While Tesla claims that AutoPilot exists at Level 3, it is actually somewhere between Levels 2 and 3 of capability depending on what is enabled in the vehicle. Tesla’s Autopilot falls somewhere between Levels 2 and 3 and Cadillac Super Cruise operates at Level 2
Level 4 autonomy offers a vehicle that is fully autonomous but only in certain conditions. A level 4 can only handle certain speeds and certain terrain. The driver does not need to be fully in control during travel but must take over suddenly when the vehicle is no longer able to handle a situation. No commercially available level 4 vehicles exist in the market.
Kathleen Walch, columnist, is Co-Founder, Senior Analyst at Cognilytica. Kathleen is a serial entrepreneur, savvy marketer, AI and Machine Learning expert, and tech industry connector. She is a senior analyst and founder of Cognilytica, an AI research and advisory firm, and co-host of the popular AI Today podcast.
Prior to her work at Cognilytica, Kathleen founded tech startup-up HourlyBee, an online scheduling system for home services where she quickly became an expert in grassroots marketing, networking, and employee management. Before that, Kathleen was a key part of the direct marketing operation for Harte Hanks managing large scale direct mail campaigns for clients including Bed Bath and Beyond and BuyBuyBaby. Managing mailings with millions of records each month, she created efficiencies in the process saving thousands of dollars and days of processing time from each campaign. Kathleen then spent many years as the Content and Innovation Director for TechBreakfast, the largest monthly morning tech meetup in the nation with over 50,000 members and 3000+ attendees at the monthly events across the US including Baltimore, DC, NY, Boston, Austin, Silicon Valley, Philadelphia, Raleigh and more. In addition she is a SXSW Innovation Awards Judge and AI / Hardware Meetup organizer.
As a master facilitator and connector, who is well connected in the technology industry, Kathleen
regularly meets with innovators in key markets and gets the opportunity to see the latest and newest technologies from game changing companies.
Kathleen graduated from Loyola University with a degree in Marketing. In her spare time she enjoys hanging out with her husband and two young girls and working out – you can frequently find her on jogging paths and workout studios.