What Are the 5 Levels of Automated Driving?

  • March 23, 2023
Man driving hands-free

The New Normal: Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Across the globe, economies are relying more and more on automation to simplify many aspects of everyday life. From food manufacturing to enhanced utility systems to telecommunications and transportation, these are just a few of the industries leaning towards automation.

On the road, drivers expect special features that leverage the newest consumer vehicle technologies, and driver assistance is at the top of the list. Standardized advanced driver assistance systems, more commonly known as ADAS, now include features such as parking assistance, driver drowsiness detection, and automatic emergency braking and are shown to improve vehicle performance and enhance safety for drivers, pedestrians, and other road users alike. These systems can interpret data in real-time to make decisions automatically, learning from a driver’s behavior to intuit when they are tired or unable to drive for any other reason.

LiDAR, Radar and Camera Technology for ADAS

Several technologies on the market are being developed to enhance ADAS, including radar and camera systems, but chief among them are LiDAR sensors. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors enable automated vehicles to map their surroundings in real-time, allowing vehicles with ADAS to measure their distance from obstacles and avoid them with higher accuracy than comparable detection systems. Carmakers, including BMW and Volkswagen, are building their future autonomous models basing the automated driving assistance on Innoviz’s LiDARs. Even so, there is still a long way to go to get to “self-driving” cars, also known as fully automated vehicles. In the meantime, let’s explore the Five Levels of Driver Autonomy to understand the different levels of automated assistance a vehicle can provide a driver.

Click here to learn more about each type of ADAS technology from Innoviz.

Level 0: No Automation

At Level 0, virtually no automated assistance is available to help the driver perform duties associated with operating their vehicle. The driver is expected to thoroughly monitor and drive the car by keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. At Level 0, the vehicle may provide alerts such as lane change assistance.

Level 1: Driver Assistance

At Level 1, certain features, such as adaptive cruise control, may be used to control the vehicle in certain situations. It manages acceleration and braking, usually on highways. Depending on the system, drivers may be able to take their feet off the pedals but otherwise must keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Level 2: Partial Automation

At Level 2, the vehicle’s increased situational awareness allows it to execute more intricate functions that involve steering, acceleration, and braking control.

Level 2+: Advanced Partial Automation

Level 2+ (L2+) is when LiDAR technologies come into play. It is not an official level, but it has a whole set of features that are more advanced than just Level 2.

As of today, vehicles with LiDAR can be deployed as L2+ since Level 3 (L3) vehicles are not yet allowed on roads. InnovizTwo, for example, can be deployed today to enable an L2+ system but can also be upgraded to allow for L3 with software updates once these systems can operate on roads. L2+ technology can be deployed now and is designed to accommodate OEMs’ long purchasing and delivery timelines, i.e., to prevent consumers from needing to buy a new car each time they want to upgrade their safety features.

Level 3: Conditional Automation

Level 3 allows for limited “self-driving” under specific conditions, including limited speeds, road types, and weather. The driver can engage in other activities but must be ready to take over when the system prompts them to.

Highway driving is a great example of L3 vehicle capabilities and offers consumers the first real taste of a “self-driving car.” For instance, in heavy traffic, the system can handle acceleration, steering, and braking while the driver relaxes, but the driver must regain control when the traffic clears and speed increases.

In an L3 system, it is also the responsibility of the vehicle to constantly monitor the driver’s readiness to resume control and be able to safely stop if necessary.

Level 4: High Automation

At Level 4, the vehicle’s autonomous system can handle all driving functions for planned routes and conditions within its operational design domain. Examples of L4 technologies on the road today include robotaxis, shuttles, and trucks. In an L4 system, the vehicle may alert the driver if it encounters an unusual condition that requires human intervention, such as heavy snow. If the driver fails to respond, the L4 vehicle will automatically secure itself.

Level 5: Full Automation

Level 5 vehicles are fully self-driving and don’t require a human driver. Vehicles of this level do not yet exist on the market, but there are a number of shuttle companies duking it out to be the first to deliver.

Absent in L5 vehicles are traditional controls, like a steering wheel or pedals. These vehicles feature “smart cabins” that allow passengers to control various elements, such as destination or temperature and volume settings, using voice commands.

What About Regulations for Existing and Future Vehicle Automation?

Although car manufacturers are selling vehicles with ADAS features to consumers, awareness and regulation for how to maintain the proper safety and performance of these vehicles are not yet where they should be.

For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled nearly 400,000 Tesla cars that claim to use “full self-driving” systems. According to NHTSA, the software creates “an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety based on insufficient adherence to traffic safety laws.”

Innoviz Technologies is heavily involved in the development of ADAS policies and regulations through its work with the LiDAR Coalition.

LiDAR Sensors by Innoviz Technologies for Peak Safety and Performance

The InnovizOne & InnovizTwo LiDARs and Innoviz perception software fill the safety gap for Level 2+ consumer and commercial vehicles and enable a path to higher levels of autonomy. The seamless integration of Innoviz hardware and perception software results in superior object detection, classification, and tracking with unrivaled angular resolution.

All products are designed and developed to conform with the automotive industry’s highest standards as Level 2+ vehicles become more common on roads and highways.

Consumers and industries are heading toward a safe, assisted driving experience with Innoviz. Contact us today for more information.