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Autonomous cars are coming. When exactly, no one knows. There’s also many different opinions about how autonomous cars should be introduced. Will the infrastructure, technology and laws be in place to go from human drivers to fully autonomous cars in one leap, or will this changing of the technological guard be a gradual one?

Engineering experts at SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) International have somewhat addressed this issue by putting together an autonomous driving level guide. These levels range from no self-driving features to fully autonomous driving.

The guide looks like this:

LEVEL 0: Automated system issues warnings and may momentarily intervene but has no sustained vehicle control.

Level 1 (“hands on”): The driver and the automated system share control of the vehicle. Examples are Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), where the driver controls steering and the automated system controls speed; and Parking Assistance, where steering is automated while speed is manual. The driver must be ready to retake full control at any time. Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II is a further example of level 1 self-driving.

Level 2 (“hands off”): The automated system takes full control of the vehicle (accelerating, braking and steering). The driver must monitor the driving and be prepared to intervene immediately at any time if the automated system fails to respond properly. The shorthand “hands off” is not meant to be taken literally. In fact, contact between hand and wheel is often mandatory during SAE 2 driving, to confirm that the driver is ready to intervene.

Level 3 (“eyes off”): The driver can safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks, e.g., the driver can text or watch a movie. The vehicle will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. The driver must still be prepared to intervene within some limited time, specified by the manufacturer, when called upon by the vehicle to do so. The 2018 Audi A8 Luxury Sedan was the first commercial car to claim to be capable of level 3 self-driving. The car has a so-called Traffic Jam Pilot. When activated by the human driver, the car takes full control of all aspects of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 kilometers per hour. The function works only on highways with a physical barrier separating one stream of traffic from oncoming traffic.

Level 4 (“mind off”): As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety, i.e., the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. Self-driving is supported only in limited spatial areas (geofenced) or under special circumstances, like traffic jams. Outside of these areas or circumstances, the vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip, i.e., park the car, if the driver does not retake control.

Level 5 (“steering wheel optional”): No human intervention is required. An example would be a robotic taxi.

It would appear that Level 5 is the goal for fully autonomous driving. However, this level needs to provide a much more responsive and refined service, comparable to that of adaptive and situational manual human driving.

There also needs to be an advanced environmental detection system in Level 5 self-driving cars.

Level 5 is the only class of automated vehicles that does not feature typical driving controls such as steering wheels, gas and brake pedals, or other, with the driver eliminated completely.

Systems engineers are preparing now for that Level 5 day, although it could still be decades into the future.

Autonomous Car Concepts Training Course

Tonex offers a 3-day Autonomous Driving Fundamentals course that covers a multitude of topics including:

  • What is Autonomous Driving?
  • Autonomous Driving defined
  • Structured and unstructured data
  • Data and analytics
  • Role of neural networks
  • Sensor fusion and other technologies involved
  • Understanding deliberative architecture
  • Importance of software
  • Levels of autonomy
  • Benefits of Autonomous Driving
  • Possible problems
  • Impact on society
  • History of Autonomous Driving
  • The need for regulations

Who Should Attend?

This is an excellent fundamental autonomous driving class for students in physics, robotics, automotive engineering, automation and product design from undergraduate to Ph.D. level. Other professionals such as electronic company personnel, computer science specialists, niche vehicle manufacturers, companies or individuals exploring the market with some knowledge of relevant technologies, car manufactures / OEMs, software and electrical engineers will also benefit.

The Tonex Way

–Presenting highly customized learning solutions is what we do. For over 30 years Tonex has worked with organizations in improving their understanding and capabilities in topics often with new development, design, optimization, regulations and compliances.

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