It is impossible to ignore the exuberance taking place in autonomous vehicle companies. Share prices going parabolic alongside an influx of confusion around self-driving technology. It is time we take a look at where we currently stand in regards to the driverless vehicle
Tech experts have classified self-driving technology into five levels.
- Level 0 – No Automation
- Level 1 – Driver Assistance: Vehicle is able to control steering or braking but not both simultaneously.
- Level 2 – Partial Automation: Vehicle can assist with both steering and braking simultaneously but your attention is required on the road at all times.
- Level 3 – Conditional Automation: Certain circumstances allow the vehicle to handle most aspects of driving. The driver can temporarily take their eyes off the road.
- Level 4 – High Automation: In the right conditions the vehicle can take full control. The driver can focus on other tasks.
- Level 5 – Full Automation: Vehicle takes on all aspects. Hypothetically no steering wheel is needed.
Now that we are familiar with the levels lets identify where we are now and what hurdles we have to get to Level 5.
Where are we at currently?
Consensus among experts put us between Levels 2 and 3. It is a common public misconception that we are much further along.
What obstacles are in the way of getting to the next levels?
- Infrastructure – Our roads are not well equipped for this kind of technology. Potholes, worn lane markings and blocked street signs make it difficult to navigate. But, with Biden now in office our likelihood for an infrastructure bill has increased. Is the nation on the brink of building for the future of electric autonomous vehicles?
- Communication – For safety reasons vehicles need to communicate and interact. These vehicles will need the ability to tell other vehicles where they are and where they are going. This will likely take place over a low latency cloud based network. Good news is this type of connected technology is available and being tested.
- Government – As we transition to self-driving vehicles, governments will be in charge of setting the rules and regulations. Making decisions on how and when these vehicles will navigate the roads. In a perfect world they understand the technology – but that is unlikely. They then will spend time asking questions; What weather conditions are appropriate? Should they have designated lanes? Not long after their eyes will open to the potential job losses associated with this transition. (lobbyists of the drivers and taxi commissions enter the room). If the government getting involved is not overwhelming enough we have yet to discuss the elephant in the room. Liability. We will leave that for another post.
So when will we REALLY have self-driving cars?
Elon Musk, and many other automotive executives, will tell you it is tomorrow. But most experts agree the ability for a Level 5 driverless car is still decades away. We as humans are quite decent at predicting the future, unfortunately we are not so good at the timelines. Let me know in the comments when you think we will be at Level 5.