Industry experts have defined five levels in the progression of autonomous driving. Each level describes the extent to which a car takes over the task and responsibility from the driver, and how the car and driver interact. A feature such as adaptive cruise control is an
example of an Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and can be considered a Level 1 capability. Currently, some new cars appearing on the market are achieving Level 2 functionality, but as an industry, we have barely scratched the surface of ADAS systems, let alone full autonomy.
The levels of autonomous driving
As we go through the levels of autonomy, processing power will be vital to achieving the vision of full autonomy, where the driver can have “hands off, eyes off and brain off”. At this stage, people in the car are just passengers and as there is no driver, there is no need for a steering wheel. However, before we get there we should first understand the various levels between non-autonomous to fully autonomous driving.
There are three main elements to ADAS/AV; sensing, compute and actuation.
Sensing captures the current state of the world around the vehicle. This is done using a mix of sensors – RADAR (long and medium range), LIDAR (long range), Camera (short/medium range), infrared and ultrasonic. Each of these senses and captures its own variant of the surrounding environment that it ‘sees’. It locates objects of interest and importance within this view, such as cars, pedestrians, road signs, animals and the curvatures of the road.