Self Driving Car Levels Explained & History of Self-Driving

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History of self driving

The concept of self-driving is not something that has started recently. 500 years ago, in the 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci invented a cart that could move without pushing or pulling. This cart was powered by a high-tension spring system. Therefore, the cart was able to travel on a given route. It is sometimes referred to as the world’s first robot.

Leonardo's self-propelled cart
Leonardo’s self-propelled cart is considered the ancestor of the modern automobile.

In 1866, Robert Whitehead invented the self-propelled torpedo. Powered by a three-cylinder compressed air engine that was able to travel several hundred meters. Its special feature was the ability to move underwater at a certain depth. It can be considered as the ancestor of today’s torpedo guidance systems, military aircraft, autonomous devices.

Whitehead torpedo

The world’s first prototype auto-pilot aircraft was built in 1933. A company called Sperry gyroscope has developed this aircraft that can fly and navigate at the same time. The same technology is still used in aircrafts today.

During World War 2, vehicles had a speed limit of 35 mph. This is because to reduce the wastage of gasoline and rubber. During this time (1945) Ralph teeter introduced cruise control technology. The first car to use this technology was launched in 1958.

The world’s first autonomous vehicle was developed in 1977 by the Tsukuba mechanical engineering lab. This vehicle was powered by analog computer technology. It also contained two cameras. Thus self-driving or autonomous technology has been evolving over the years.

Self driving car levels & the challenges of building self driving car

You may have seen scenes of flying cars and driverless cars in many sci-fi films. Companies like Google, Toyota, and Tesla are already developing and testing driverless cars when it comes to self-driving technology. Although not as high as in sci-fi films, some advanced self-driving cars have already been produced. Like other technological devices, self-driving cars have various advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage of this is the reduction of various accidents. Currently, about 1 million people die from traffic accidents every year. 94% of these accidents are due to various human errors. For that reason, advances in self-driving technology can significantly reduce these risks. In the future, however, highways will be much safer than they are now.

This safety is the main problem that arises when building a self-driving vehicle. Although these vehicles need to be safer than human drivers, various companies already have self-driving cars, they are not 100% safe. But tesla, waymo cars have the ability to do most of the things done by a driver more accurately than a human. However, these have not yet been able to replace a human driver.

The second problem is practicality. Drivers have to make various hasty decisions at different times while driving. The main problem here is whether a self-driving car can respond to such an emergency. These vehicles are easy to program to follow the rules of the road. But sometimes the computer has to make difficult decisions which can lead to safety issues for pedestrians as well as passengers. But as this technology continues to advance, self-driving vehicles will become more practical than humans in the future.

What are self driving car levels

2014 the society of automotive engineers or SAE released a universal set of standers for classifying driver-assist systems. These are called levels of driving automation. These self driving car levels are divided into level 0, level 1, level 2, level 3, level 4, level 5, sections.

No Automation (Level 0)

No automation

Level 0 includes vehicles without any self-driving functions. Most of the time the current average level vehicles belong to this level 0 category. However, some vehicles may have a proximity warning system on the reverse camera. The important thing here is that even though there is a proximity warning system, your assistance is essential to stop the vehicle so these vehicles cannot be classified as level 1.

Example Features

  • Blind spot warning
  • Lane departure warning

Driver Assistance (Level 1)

Driver Assistance, Kia Stinger GT

If the vehicle can turn a few degrees itself (autosteer) it belongs to this category. Level 1 autonomous vehicles are equipped with advanced features such as lane assist and radar-based cruise control. They also have the ability to keep a safe gap between other vehicles. but should need human supervision.

Example Features

  • Lane centering or adaptive cruise control

Partial Driving Automation (Level 2)

Partial Driving Autom, Cadillac CT6

Vehicles in this category have the ability to control steering and acceleration at specific times. These vehicles feature advanced cruise control, parking detection, and self-park. But in all cases, the driver’s attention is required.

Example Features

  • Lane centering
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Self park

Conditional Driving Automation (Level 3)

Conditional Driving Automation, 2019 Audi A8

Level 3 vehicles have the ability to travel to a specific destination on a specific route. These can also assist the driver in making various decisions. The safety of the vehicles in this category is a bit higher compared to level 2 but always requires the attention of a driver.

Example Features

  • Traffic jam chauffeur

High Driving Automation (Level 4)

In most cases, no driver guidance is required. But there is a human override option to control the vehicle in case of an emergency.

Example Features

  • Local driverless taxi
  • pedals / steering wheel may or may not be installed

Full Automation (Level 5)

Driver guidance is not required at all. Steering wheel or pedals are often not included. These were able to do everything a human driver would do. Although this type of vehicle is not currently available in the market

Example Features

  • Same as level 4 but feature can drive anywhare in all conditions like human driver

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