Kurt Verlin
No Comments

What Are the Different Levels of Car Autonomy?

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page
Woman behind the wheel of Hyundai with Level 2 autonomy
Photo: Hyundai

Established by the engineering experts at SAE International, there are five levels of car autonomy. As semi-autonomous vehicle technologies become more common, you may have encountered automakers advertising these with terms like “Level 3 autonomy.” So what are the levels, and where does the auto industry stand currently?

Top Safety Pick Awards: This brand has more than any other

Level 0

The car has no automated features. Cars with cruise control are included in this category.

Level 1

The car has some automated features but you still control the vehicle and must be fully aware of your environment. Most new cars fall under this category thanks to driver-assistance systems like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.

Level 2

The car has partially autonomous driving features, but you must nonetheless be fully attentive to the road and ready to take action if necessary. This category encompasses most cutting-edge features like Tesla Autopilot, Cadillac Super Cruise, and Volvo Drive Assist.

Level 3

The car is fully autonomous in specific conditions. You do not need to actively monitor the environment in those conditions, but you must still be ready to take over when those conditions end. So far, the only production car to achieve this level is the Honda Legend EX.

Level 4

The car is fully autonomous in most driving conditions and can handle “dynamic driving tasks.” However, it still has limitations and will require you to occasionally take over in unusual or difficult situations, such as during bad weather. Toyota is currently testing a Level 4 car.

Level 5

The car is fully autonomous in all conditions. It can drive itself anywhere at any time and human intervention is never required. There is no such car in existence.

Brake Maintenance: Full autonomy is meaningless without good brakes

So there you have it — the five levels of car autonomy. Needless to say, it will be a long time before we get to Level 5. Level 4 seems doable within a reasonable time frame, perhaps even before the turn of the decade, but ironing out all of the kinks required to enable a car to go anywhere seems like a huge endeavor.