As we discussed in an earlier post, many of the latest vehicle models are outfitted with autonomous driving capabilities, some of which are erroneously taken to mean that the car is 'self-driving.' That perception has had deadly consequences for some drivers, which is why clarification on just what 'autonomous driving' actually means is so important.
It turns out that not all autonomous driving functions are the same. In fact, there is actually an industry-adopted scale to differentiate between the different types, ranging from level 0 to level 5.
"It's important to know these levels in order to correctly distinguish one supposedly autonomous vehicle from the next. According to the SAE [Society of Automotive Engineers], the levels were decided based on how much attention a driver should be paying to the road when the autonomous features are active."
The first level, or lack of level, is 0, and this means the vehicle has no automation capabilities whatsoever. While newer cars tend to have some level of automation, older cars would likely fall into this category, which, as Beedham points out, makes up a lot of the cars on the road today.
From there, the levels include a great range in capabilities. Cars that feature only things like lane departure assist or adaptive cruise control place in the first level, meaning that drivers are still very much responsible for driving their vehicles, whereas by level 4, the vehicle is technically able to do much of what the driver currently does.
Level 5, which is a fully self-driving vehicles, is not something that is fully developed or ready for regular use, meaning that, wherever your vehicle falls elsewhere on the level list, you still have to drive your car, for now.
For a full breakdown of the 6 levels of autonomous driving vehicles, check out the original article by Matthew Beedham on TNW.