Levels of vehicle automation

There have been many efforts to define various automation levels of vehicles over the years. The public German road agency, Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen (BASt), published its defined vehicle automation levels in 2012 (Gasser and Westhoff 2012).

In 2013, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defined automation levels similar to BASt. One year later, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defined vehicle automation levels into six levels (J3016), adding one more level than BASt and NHTSA. The detailed comparison between all three is given below.

Level 0

SAE: The human driver is completely responsible for the control of the vehicle. The driver should control the vehicle steering and the pedals manually.

NHTSA: No automation; the driver controls the vehicle.

BASt: Driver only.

Level 1

SAE: Assistance provided to driver by increasing or decreasing the acceleration by DAS, eg manual parking with help of sensor inputs.

NHTSA: Function-specific automation.

BASt: Assisted.

Level 2

SAE: Automation of vehicle is made partial. This level combines two DAS to advance the driver support, eg auto parking.

NHTSA: Combined specification automation.

BASt: Partially automated.

Level 3

SAE: Conditional automation. The system will control all the dynamic driving function, but the driver should be available to quickly take control over the vehicle on request, eg adaptive cruise control.

NHTSA: Limited self-driving automation.

BASt: Highly automated.

Level 4

SAE: Has all the same properties of Level 3; when a driver is not available on request then the vehicle will continue to operate the dynamic driving tasks.

NHTSA: Full self-driving automation (SAE levels 4 and 5 combined).

BASt: Fully automated.

Level 5

SAE: Complete automation; includes the advantages from all the previous levels. The complete driving is automated.

NHTSA: N/A

BASt: N/A

References

Gasser, M. T., and Westhoff, D. (2012) BASt-study: Definitions of Automation and Legal Issues in Germany. German Federal Highway Research Institute, Bergisch Gladbach: Transportation Research Board

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