CONTRARY to what some people think (we’re looking at you Tesla owners), there are no commercially available fully autonomous cars on the roads today. This is for two main reasons: the technology that allows a vehicle to drive itself everywhere, all the time is not ready yet; and the law does not allow it in most countries.
However, there are numerous pilot schemes around the world testing autonomous vehicle technology, particularly in China and North America, and governments are relaxing rules to allow the industry to get on with its workload.
In the UK, the government has said that by the end of 2021 will change the law to define cars with ALKS (Automated Lane Keeping Systems) certified standards as “autonomous”, which means drivers will be able to take their hands off the wheel on designated sections of the road. Initially this will be limited to motorways, and only at speeds below 37mph, but is seen as the right first step in enabling fully autonomous cars to hit our roads.
And while no car for sale can fully drive itself yet, what we do have today are cars with some self-driving capability, with innovative driver-assist technologies like cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
The trend suggests the question of “when will we have self-driving cars?“It’s not about going from what we have today to a fully autonomous car overnight; we are likely to see a continued gradual progression.
While car enthusiasts may not like to relinquish control to a computer, the benefits of fully autonomous driving are clear: no chance of driver error, caused by distraction or fatigue; the opportunity for passengers to make better use of time, for work or leisure, while en route; and the ability for blind, disabled, or even drunk people to get around without having to negotiate public transportation.
And according to Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders: “Automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious crashes and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the leading cause of motor vehicle crashes. traffic: human error. ”
Autonomy levels of SAE vehicles
In an attempt to clarify the different types of autonomous vehicles, in 2014 the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) published its Levels of Automated Driving standard, identifying five distinct levels of autonomy above the traditional vehicle, from those with basic cruise control those who can pilot themselves completely, without the need for a human driver.
With a significant gap between levels two and three, automotive engineers started talking last year about an additional Level 2+, which has been reflected here.
Level 0: No driving automation
This is when all driving tasks are performed by the driver. Interestingly, a car with active safety features can still be considered Level 0 if they are turned off or are only involved in an emergency situation.
Level 1: Driver Assistance
Features such as adaptive cruise control, which will automatically control the speed of the car to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, or lane centering are considered SAE Level 1 – but only when used alone, not together.
Note: The Mitsubishi Diamante is believed to be the first car to feature adaptive cruise control (albeit with speed adjusted via the engine, no brake assist) in 1995.
Level 2: partial driving automation
This is when a car has systems that can provide assistance with both steering and acceleration/braking functions. Most new cars have level 2 autonomy and by law the driver must be in control at all times.
Note: “Tier 2+” is a term introduced by some automakers as they implemented new and advanced technology using multiple sensors, connected car technology, and faster processing power. Features like active lane change and freeway merging, enhanced automatic emergency braking (AEB) for pedestrians and cyclists, and interior monitoring technologies to ensure driver attention are considered Level 2+.
Level 3: Conditional Driving Automation
A big jump because these vehicles are autonomous driving in certain conditions, although drivers should remain vigilant as they may need to regain control with a few seconds’ warning. Cars certified with ALKS type approval in the UK will be considered level 3 “self-driving”.
Note: Tier 3 cars were expected to arrive in mid-2018, but it has taken longer than expected to implement the technology and legislation to allow this.
It’s believed a number of cars will be ready for this, including most Teslas, the Audi A8 and the Mercedes S-Class, though in fact the first Tier 3 cars aren’t expected to get type approval until shortly before end of 2021 (at time of writing).
Initially, those with ALKS type approval will not be allowed to drive alone, except on motorways at speeds below 37mph, and the driver will need to take over within 10 seconds of an alert from the car.
Level 4: High driving automation
With a level 4 autonomous car, the driver is not expected to take control, even if the car’s automated systems start to have problems; instead, he must be able to stop safely on his own. But Level 4 automated cars are not expected to be able to operate in all conditions, everywhere.
Note: There is a huge technological and legislative leap back from Tier 3 to Tier 4, and Tier 4 cars are not expected to be legal in the UK any time soon. In fact, some people believe that, unlike the airways, road networks are so complicated that Level 4 automation will be impossible.
However, companies like Waymo in the US are already testing highly automated vehicles on the roads, with safety drivers ready to intervene if necessary.
Level 5: Full Driving Automation
A small jump from level 4 to level 5, in theory: these cars will be able to drive themselves everywhere in all conditions, without waiting for a human to take over the driving duties.
Note: Because a human won’t need to take control at any point, level 5 self-driving cars won’t need a steering wheel, pedals, or even windows. — will be capsules that can be designed solely for comfort.