The manner in which we zoom around our towns and cities is ripe for revolution in a way not seen since the birth of the internal combustion engine. Demand for autonomous vehicles is set to surge by tens of millions in the coming years. And Goldman Sachs suggests the rise of so-called Robo-taxis will expand the global ride-hailing business from present revenues of $5 billion to $285 billion by the end of this decade. Imagine trillions of hours of productive time clawed back because we won’t be gawping at the road ahead. Then imagine how pleasant our city centers might be without endless hectares hogged by greedy parking lots. To reach this utopia, self-driving vehicles need to ascend the 1-5 scale established by the SAE, or Society of Auto Engineers. Let’s look at that scale.
Level one automation is the most basic and covers things like traffic-sensitive cruise control that uses lasers to monitor traffic. It’s been available on some Mercedes models since the late nineties. Honda introduced a related feature called ‘Lane Keep Assist‘ in 2008.
Level two automates a couple more factors, including limited steering assistance. It can raise the alarm if a human driver is tired and can nudge along in slow-moving traffic. Many new cars have this built-in as standard.
Level three can do most driving by itself but requires human hands on the wheel at all times, just in case.
Level four is where it gets interesting – fully autonomous motoring, albeit only in strictly defined areas, like cities, that are pre-mapped to the Nth degree. Level four means drivers can stop paying attention, but they can’t go everywhere.
Finally, level five means full independent automation, to the extent drivers can work, play or doze and still get where they’re going in one piece.
Watch this source video to get more information about the self-driving car industry and who is winning the self-driving car race.