Autonomous vehicles are cars that can sense their environment and navigate without human input. They have the potential to transform our cities, communities, and lives by drastically cutting the number of vehicle accidents, reducing the number of vehicles on the road, and freeing up millions of hours of potentially productive time currently spent behind the wheel.
A classification system based on six different levels was published in 2014 by SAE International, a non-profit automotive standardisation body. This system was adopted by the United States' National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in September 2016.
This is just one of several standards used to describe autonomous vehicles. It defines six levels of automation, each requiring less input from a human driver than the previous:
Level 0: No Automation
Automated system has no vehicle control, but may issue warnings.
Most vehicles today are Level 0 - this includes technologies like reversing cameras, parking sensors, and velocity-based cruise control.
Level 1: Driver Assistance
Driver must be ready to take control at any time. Automated system may include features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Parking Assistance with automated steering, and Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA). Level 2 in any combination.
Modern vehicles that can parallel park without human input, follow a car in front at a safe distance, or keep in their lane on a highway fall into Level 1.
Level 2: Partial Automation
The driver is obliged to detect objects and events and respond if the automated system fails to respond properly. The automated system executes accelerating, braking, and steering. The automated system can deactivate immediately upon takeover by the driver.
When combined with each other, technologies from Level 1 can enable Level 2 autonomy. Several vehicle models are on the market as of 2016 featuring Level 2 autonomy.
Level 3: Conditional Automation
Within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks.
From Level 3 onward, regulatory approval has slowed widespread adoption of autonomy in many jurisdictions. The important distinction is that this is the first level of autonomy where it's possible to entirely hand over control of the vehicle to the automated system.
Level 4: High Automation
The automated system can control the vehicle in all but a few environments such as severe weather. The driver must enable the automated system only when it is safe to do so. When enabled, driver attention is not required.
Level 4 autonomy is characterised by the vehicle being able to operate without human input for the vast majority of it's driving. Note however that human-usable controls must remain in a Level 4 autonomous vehicle.
Level 5: Full Automation
Other than setting the destination and starting the system, no human intervention is required. The automatic system can drive to any location where it is legal to drive.
A vehicle capable of Level 5 autonomy need not have a steering wheel or pedals, in theory a simple touchscreen would give the passengers enough control to program the vehicle to its destination.
We're working to bring autonomous vehicle technology on to our fleet with Partial Automation at Level 2. Over time, as the technology matures and is proven to be safe and reliable, more automation will be deployed across the vehicles we offer on the Mevo fleet.
If you're interested in Autonomous Vehicles or would like to learn more, please get in touch through our Contact page.