SAE Automation Levels

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What are the SAE Automation Levels?

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Automation Levels were developed a classification system for self-driving cars in January 2014. The classification provides a common taxonomy and definitions for driverless vehicles. SAE’s classification system on driverless cars was adopted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

What is SAE Level 0 Automation?  

At Level 0, cars have no autonomous vehicle controls – but driving can be enhanced by warning or intervention systems like  blind spot indicators. At level 0, the human driver does all driving.

What is SAE Level 1 Automation?  

With Level 1 automation, human drivers control the critical driving tasks – but may get minor technological assistance. The car might include a system that operates steering. Or the car may be able to help with acceleration/deceleration in certain scenarios. Level 1 cars typically never take over both functions. All  cars on the market today classify as Level 1 vehicles because Stability Control was required for 2012 models. Cruise control (acceleration/deceleration) or lane correction technology (steering) also qualify as Level 1 technologies.

What is SAE Level 2 Automation?  

Level 2 automation vehicles take over both steering and acceleration/deceleration capabilities in fixed scenarios. Although level 2 vehicles can take over certain “driving modes” or tasks, the driver is still in control over the vehicle at all times. Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot or Volvo’s Pilot Assist II are Level 2 automation features. They can help a driver stay in their lane and even slow down to avoid cars in traffic. Self-park features also help a driver with certain functions.

What is SAE Level 3 Automation?  

At level 3 automation, cars safely control all aspects of driving in a mapped environment. Human drivers  still need to be on board monitoring and managing changes in road environments or unforeseen scenarios. To date, no Level 3 cars are being sold to consumers. Level 3 technology has stirred up controversy, with some industry players saying it’s not realistic to expect a driver to remain as alert as needed, if they’re only passively monitoring driving functions.

What is SAE Level 4 Automation?  

In level 4 vehicles,  no driver interaction is needed. A level 4 car can stop itself if the systems fail. These cars will be able to handle driving from point A to point B in most use-cases. However, the cars will include functional driving apparatus, like wheels, brakes and gas pedals.  So humans can manually drive when conditions befuddle predefined use cases (i.e., off-roading,) or when humans  feel like actually driving.

What is SAE Level 5 Automation?  

Level 5 cars are completely autonomous. Besides controlling the destination, humans have no other involvement in driving a level 5 car – nor can they intervene. Prototypes of level 5 vehicles look nothing like the cars that we drive today. There are no steering wheels, gas or brake pedals. Instead, the interiors of level 5 vehicles are designed around and productivity of its passengers, with features such as offices or entertainment lounges.

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