Driverless and Autonomous vehicles 2017 update
We are being asked more and more about autonomous vehicles so we thought it was worth doing a summary article explaining some of the jargon and definitions set out to describe the various levels of artificial intelligence involved in vehicle autonomy.
At the moment new vehicles have various automated features which could be considered as steps on the path to full autonomy these vary from adaptive or radar based cruise control, parking sensors or collision mitigation systems to basic systems such as antilock braking systems or stability control. These functions are still largely viewed as driver aids rather than basic autonomy but we will quickly see these features come together to form the basis of vehicle autonomy over the next few years.
If we look at the accepted definitions of vehicle autonomy this will help understand what constitutes the transition from vehicle automation onto full driverless autonomy:
- Level 0 - Driver Controlled: This is any vehicle system which issues warnings but has no physical control of the vehicle. Things like Fords traffic sign recognition system uses a forward facing camera to identify road signs and alerts and displays to the driver speed warning or no overtaking zones
- Level 1 – Driver Assistance: This is where the automated system and the driver share control over the vehicle. The driver is alerted to vehicle information via a feature such as the adaptive cruise control system where he is still controlling the steering of the vehicle but the automated system varies and controls the speed based on the behavior of the vehicle in front. Another example would be the Mazda Lane Departure Warning System – LDWS which can detect road markings and warns the driver of any unintentional sways. If a lane change is accompanied by acceleration or an indicator the system can detect the manoeuvre as deliberate and will not sound an alarm. At level 1 the driver must be attentive to the vehicle at all times as they may need to retake full control at any time depending upon road conditions.
- Level 2 – Part Automated: This is where the automated systems begin to take more responsibility and can control the speed and steering of the vehicle whilst the driver monitors and retains control over other vehicle functions and is available to retake full control at any time.
- Level 3 – Automated: This is where a vehicle is aware or “conscious” of the road and environment around it and can monitor and react to the conditions as they present themselves. This is a more driver “eyes off” level as the car can monitor and interpret the road and make decisions to overtake a slower vehicles and manufacturers will define a reaction time for a driver to take control of the vehicle in certain conditions.
- Level 4 – Fully Automated: This is where the car has a fully automated and often referred to as an “eyes off” driving system capable of handling all aspects of the driving task without any human intervention. The driver or passengers can direct their attention away from the driving task and on each other or even go to sleep during a journey. In the event of a problem the vehicle will simply stop or park itself and the driver could manually drive the vehicle.
- Level 5 – Driver & Passenger free: This is where a fully autonomous vehicle does not have a steering wheel, so it could be a robotic taxi called to pick up a passenger and make the journey whilst performing all safety-critical driving functions and continuously monitoring roadway conditions without any human intervention or a driver in the traditional driver’s seat.
There is a race to achieve the LEVEL 5 fully autonomous and driverless vehicles but safety and confidence are important factors to overcome and because of this we may see different approaches and levels of vehicle autonomy to gain drivers trust and confidence.
We like the simplistic two tier approach from Toyota of dividing the technology into having a Guardian and a Chauffeur system, the guardian system has increased safety features on the vehicle and via sensors inside and out it will monitor the driver and uses artificial intelligence software to track the vehicle and the drivers head movement in order to anticipate potential trouble with the system aiming to eventually have capability to take action and help the driver avoid accidents.
The Guardian system would add intelligent safety systems to vehicles but drivers remain active and participate in the driving experience.
The Chauffeur system is aimed at level 4 and 5 artificial intelligence autonomous driving systems and its anticipated this would initially be where vehicles are restricted to geographical areas or set routes and eventually to full level 5 autonomous vehicle operating anywhere.
The key to the success of any autonomous vehicle program is to ensure absolute customer confidence but with google, uber, tesla, Intel and motor manufacturers (Nissan, Toyota, Ford etc.) all chasing level 5 automation, the level of competition will drive the technology and innovation to success.
It really does mean exciting times are ahead and whilst it may be a few years before we see a fully autonomous level 5 vehicle for sale on the uk car discount website our guess is the lower level 2, 3 and Level 4 vehicles will begin to appear in the next few years.