Autonomous driving: levels and features | Auto for Dummies
Several decades ago flying cars were imagined thinking about the future, today these automotive applications are still science fiction; not so much for the theoretical impossibility of construction but for the few advantages offered by these solutions compared to very high costs, considerable logistics problems and, above all, as regards the driveability of the aforementioned vehicles.
The context of autonomous driving
Do you think that a normal airliner has a electronic and IT sector so advanced that it allows take-off, travel and landing without the slightest intervention by the pilot. This type of automation is usually used in the intermediate phase of flight while for landing and take-off (the most dangerous phase) all responsibilities are always in the hands of the crew. The pilot uses to a limited extent the whole series of tools capable of making the aircraft make autonomous decisions.
The state of the art of these systems it is always found in the aeronautical field. Think that the most advanced military fighters are able to recognize the possible loss of consciousness of the pilot, due for example to the high G forces deriving from sudden flight maneuvers, and bring the aircraft back into trim avoiding the accident.
Let’s take this example because the military comparison is perfect for understanding the evolution of a given technology: the available budgets are so high that they seem unlimited. Considering advances in autonomous drivingit is very likely that it will be a consistent and complete reality only when it is in the aforementioned sphere.
Literally back with the feet on the ground, or rather the wheels, Auto for Dummies has already dealt with electronic aids in the past, the so-called ADAS. May it be radar, cameras or infrared sensorsmodern cars are able to provide the on-board computer (the so-called control unit) with a very high amount of information capable of optimizing any vehicle process, internal or external, with a very strong focus on safety.
The levels of autonomous driving
This system is now very stand-alone, ie independent and sectorial. When the individual technologies are perfected enough it will be much easier and cheaper to merge them together, allowing the cars of tomorrow to enjoy the much desired autonomous driving.
In 2014 a first formalization of this technology was drawn up by SAE International, one of the most important standardization bodies in the automotive industry. The classification drawn up divides the autonomy of a vehicle into six levels with respect to the intervention of the driver:
- 0 – no automation: electronics absent e total responsibility of the driver
- 1 – information assistance: the driver always has the total burden of driving but the car is able, thanks to a special sensor, to warn (visually or acoustically) about any dangerous or attention situations
- 2 – partial automation: the technology on board intervenes on the braking and acceleration leaving full control over the steering; this is the typical case of assisted, emergency braking and cruise control. Lane keeping systems also fall into this level of automation as long as the steering is always partially controlled by the system
- 3 – conditioned automation: the systems described above are now abundantly automated in ordinary environmental conditions. The driver intervenes in problematic situationswhether signaled by the system or verified by the driver
- 4 – advanced automation: the autonomous driving system is designed to deal with any eventuality linked directly to the vehicle or the surrounding environment. The only limit is represented by extreme driving conditions (e.g. severe bad weather) in which sensors and electronics are not able to offer the same levels of safety as intervention and human judgment
- 5 – full automation: the car can drive automatically, without any kind of human intervention. Each situation has been appropriately classified, empirically or thanks to advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence
Automation today and tomorrow
In 2019 the best technology in circulation allows you to churn out excellent cars with autonomous driving level 3; level 4 is still reserved for concepteven if totally feasible, given the evolution that is still a bit too immature and the inadequate legislation in force.
Taking an example of the goals achieved, Elon Musk announced that by the end of 2019 all Tesla models equipped with the latest technologies will have an autonomous driving level of four (ref. sole24ore – tesla, autonomous driving from 2019). To understand the complexity of this technology, just think that the latest Tesla will mount 12 ultrasonic sensors, 8 cameras and a front radar. The computing unit will be able to process over 2.5 billion pixels generated allowing the driver to completely take his hands off the steering wheel during the entire journey.
In addition to Tesla, brands such as Hyundai, Mercedes or Audi they produced level 4 concepts but the bureaucratic difficulties and the last details to be fixed ended up even deactivating the level 3 technology already tested and present on board. The road is still long but the conditions are very good; there are far fewer years left than expected for the latest level of autonomous driving.