Automated vehicles are also known as driverless cars, self-driving cars, robotic cars or autonomous vehicles. A fully automated vehicle is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. It can detect its surroundings using a variety of techniques, such as radar, GPS and computer vision.
Level 0: No automation, human driver monitors driving environment.
Level 1: Driver assistance, human driver monitors driving environment but some functions can be done automatically by the car, like steering or accelerating, for example.
Level 2: Partial automation, human driver monitors driving environment and must be ready to take control of the vehicle when necessary.
Level 3: Conditional automation, automated driving system monitors driving environment. Driver is present and can take over but is not required to monitor the car.
Level 4: High automation, automated driving system monitors driving environment. Vehicle performs all safety-critical functions and monitors the roadway, but does not cover every driving scenario.
Level 5: Full automation, automated driving system monitors driving environment. Does not require a human driver and car function is equal to that of a human driver.
Most industry forecasts estimate that driverless cars will be on public roads within the next decade. GM, Ford, and Tesla are working on automated cars. Tesla “Autopilot” is considered Level 2 automation.
Level 4 automated light-duty electric shuttles have been tested and implemented in parts of Europe, Japan and the US.
Level 5 automation (fully automated vehicles that don’t require a human driver) is not yet available, and is expected to emerge between 5 years and decades from now. Level 4 (performs all safety-critical functions) automated vehicle technology is currently available.
Predictions about when Level 5 automation will be available vary. For example, Uber expects its entire fleet to be driverless by 2030.