Now, as you've probably noticed we don't just get to the self driving automotive future poof overnight.
It doesn't happen that way.
We get there in a set of level steps, but who defines those?
There are two bodies that have a lot of say about these levels in this car tech 101.
One of them is NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here in the United States.
The other one is SAE International group, the Society of Automotive Engineers.
They have, not just a different take on what the levels speak to, but also a different number of levels, so I'm gonna do what I can to slot these against each other, and make them conform as much as possible.
Let's get started with the first level, which is not called level one but level 0 and 0 for a good reason because there's basically 0 autonomy.
Now you might have a car today that has anti-lock brakes or smart stability control.
Those are fairly smart reactive systems but they're not autonomous driving systems.
They do not drive toward autonomy in any real sense.
As a result, they're rolled up in level zero, you're completely in charge of the car.
Next one of course is, obviously, we get to level one.
Now, level one is easy to remember on the NHTSA side.
This is one system that is autonomous, even though the whole car isn't.
It could be adaptive cruise control that maintains speed and distance.
It could be active lane keep, that keeps you in your lane with a little bit of assistance on the steering.
So if you have one system that is helping you drive.
On the SAE side they've got a very equivalent look at it.
They say yes, if there's any single system of driver assistance that they also agree is level 1. They also say in no case should a driver rely on those systems.
They are still completely on deck as the driver.
And fully responsible for every bit of that vehicle's action.
Now level two is where things start to really step into the autonomy world.
Easy to remember again, because it means two or more systems working in concert in the [UNKNOWN] definition.
So if you have that lane keeping technology and adaptive cruise and they're both working at once Here at a level 2 car, in a level 2 situation.
Over in the SAE side they call this partial autonomy, what that means is you have driver assistance yet you still have to be in charge of driving.
You are not relieved of paying attention or being responsible of the vehicles overall driving You've got help but you can't rely on it and cede any responsibility.
Now level three is where we start to push The future a bit.
Just the fewest cars have this right now.
One the NHTSA side, it means a car that can take over driving in little bits and bursts, just for a segment, and usually just for the easiest segments of driving, like taking over in stop and go.
Maybe you can divert your attention a little bit.
On the SAE side, they call this conditional autonomy.
It means the car can take over some driving in the best conditions.
Not in the ones worth more challenging when a vehicle can do the easy part of driving.
And again, you can start to turn your attention away from driving just a little bit, but not in any long gulps by either of these definitions.
Level four we star to get very controversial.
Do we even get here in the minds of many.
Pernitsa, that means self-driving, door to door the entire trip Except in unusual conditions could be handled by the vehicle.
It can take itself out of the garage, come to you, take you where you're going, and go park itself.
Level 4's a big deal.
On the SAE side, they acknowledge this as high autonomy.
Now this is still a vehicle in the have of wheel and pedals.
Because around difficult and unusual conditions is very likely to going punt and go back to you and say I just got confuse you are in charge right now
Level four is really interesting because there's a lot of arguments of wether we even can or should try to get there.
Because it gets into the biggest discussion right now.
When and how is it fair for an autonomous car to go from driving itself to occasionally getting in trouble and throwing it back to you when you already had a chance to completely disengage from driving.
It's a very big discussion point.
Finally, level 5, and here's where SAE goes it alone with what they call full autonomy.
These guys don't grant that title easily.
This is complete autonomy to the extreme degree.
This is where you would get those google cars that are being tested that have no wheel or peddles in the first place.
A vehicle where you never are responsible For having to intercede and take over the driving task.
This is very cutting edge stuff and as you can see, BHTSA doesn't really have a layer that goes here specifically.
Now however you want to view the world, through either of these level filters, they're both excellent tools to figure out what it is humans do in cars.
Where we are now What the next step is and what step might be too far.
More car tech demystified right now at CNETOnCars.com.
Click on Car Tech 101.