Types of autonomous vehicles

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Federal regulators unveiled policies to guide automakers as they develop self-driving cars and trucks using SAE International’s six-point scale to define levels of autonomous vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expects automakers to classify all vehicles using SAE levels 0 through 5 in the coming years to identify how safety should be evaluated.

December 7, 2016

Non-autonomous driving

SAE level 0

no automation

Human driver manages all driving tasks

SAE level 1

driver assistance

Automated system can assist the humna driver during some driving tasks, taking over either steering or engine acceleration/deceleration

SAE level 2

General Motors’ Stabilitrack system cuts engine power and adjust steering if it senses the likelihood of a vehicle rollover.
partial automation

Automated system can conduct some steering and acceleration/deceleration while the human driver monitors the driving environment and handles the rest of the driving task

Autonomous driving:

Increased federal scrutiny

SAE level 3

conditional automation

Automated systems can conduct driving tasks and monitor the driving environment, but the human driver must be ready the retake control when the automated system requests

Local Motors’ Olli autonomous mini-bus has no driver’s seat or steering wheel.

SAE level 4

high automation

Autonomous systems can drive the vehicle and monitor road conditions; the human driver does not need to take control, but the system can only operate in specific conditions and environments

SAE level 5

full automation

The fully autonomous vehicle can perform all driving and road-monitoring tasks in all driving conditions

More info

For details on new federal guidelines for self-driving vehicles, go to Today’s Motor Vehicles’ regulatory news section on page 10.