In light of the increasing number of driverless vehicles poised to hit the road in the coming years, certain changes and adjustments have to be made to public policy. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has opted to adopt the six levels of on-road vehicle automation as outlined by SAE International. Officials believe this will not only make best-practices easier for drivers to understand when on a road with automated vehicles, it will provide a solid framework for creating new policies and safety measures.
As the Department charged with protecting the traveling public, we intend to establish a foundation and a framework upon which future governmental action will occur.
The six levels of automation provide a clear and concise outline of the exact amount of technology at use in a particular vehicle — and what laws might impact the car and its users. You can read all the details surrounding the classification of driverless cars here in the official report. Basically, the levels are as follows:
Level 0 – No Automation: This would include virtually all cars on the road currently, even those with navigation and warning systems.
Level 1 – Driver Assistance: Made up of vehicles where the driver requires some level of aid when it comes to accelerating or steering.
Level 2 – Partial Automation: When the driver requires aid with more than one system, such as both accelerating and steering. Every other aspect of driving is performed by the user.
Level 3 – Conditional Automation: In driving mode (ie, when a user has engaged the program), the automated driving system runs all programs, but the human driver can intervene if needed and take control of the vehicle.
Level 4 – High Automation: In driving mode, the vehicle will perform all tasks, regardless of any intervention from a human driver.
Level 5 – Full Automation: The vehicle is fully capable of performing any and all tasks related to driving without the presence or involvement of a human driver.
These safety levels are just the beginning, according to SAE and DOT; the company is also working to develop enhanced safety programs for cyber security, communication, and interoperability. All of these factors will come into play as the rise of automated vehicles begins to change our travel landscape forever.