Volkswagen Is Focused on The Future of Autonomous Driving

June 1st, 2021 by

2021 Volkswagen 6stages

Photo credit: Volkswagen

Everyone is chatting about the boundaries of autonomous driving, something many foresee will be the new way of the future. Researchers calculate that by 2025 roughly eight million autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles will be on the road. Volkswagen is currently in the process of converting the 2024 ID. Buzz into a fully autonomous electric taxi that can be used all around the world  Perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves, before autonomous vehicles can merge onto roadways, they will have to advance through 5 levels of driver assistance technology advancements. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) describes the 6 levels of driving automation ranging from 0 ( fully manual) to level 5 (fully autonomous). The U.S. Department of Transportation has adopted these levels into their program now too. What exactly are the distinctions between the levels? Let’s break them down and truly understand what each level is capable of.

The levels of autonomous driving start with level 0 which has no driving automation, most vehicles on the road are level 0. The person inside the vehicle provides the “driving task”, depending on what vehicle some systems may be in place to help the driver with the minimum assistance. Emergency braking would be the ideal example of how the driver is still in full control. Moving forward, Level 1 comes with the lowest level of automation, the vehicle will feature a single automated system for driver assistance like cruise control. Adaptive cruise control also qualifies as level one even though the vehicle can be kept a safe distance behind the next car with the driver monitoring steering and braking.

Now, moving into Level 2 autonomous driving that involves partial driving automation, indicating an advanced driver assistance system or ADAS is incorporated. The principal focus is how much the driver needs to monitor the system, Level 2 also includes driving features such as parking and negotiating stop-and-go traffic. A step further from Level 2 to Level 3 begins to change the level of autonomous driving. While Level 2 is more about assistance systems, Level 3 allows the car to drive autonomously under specified conditions. Level 3 enters the world of highly automated driving, allowing drivers to completely remove their hands off the wheel. Level 3 mostly pertains to highway autonomous driving, once the vehicle is ready to exit, it will relinquish control to the driver.

While most new vehicles offer Level 3 conditional driving automation, the next step following is fully automated Level 4 vehicles. Level 4 allows the vehicle to control complete trips on highways as well as in city traffic. The main difference between Level 3 and Level 4 automation is that Level 4 systems can intervene and take control in any case of emergency or the event of a system failure. So technically, these vehicles don’t necessarily require a human driver, but regardless a driver has the option to manually override. Level 4 can operate in self-driving mode but can only operate within a limited area due to legislation. NAVYA, a French company, has already begun to build and sell Level 4 shuttles and cabs in the U.S. that are fully electric and reach up to 55 mph. 

Arriving at Level 5 Full Driving Automation, the actual autonomous driving that doesn’t require any driving ability nor a driving license to use the vehicle. In Level 5 the driver converts to a pure passenger, it can also be the fact that fully autonomous vehicles don’t have a steering wheel nor pedals that are capable of driving independently. Level 5 was not intended for passengers to interfere, Level 5 is free from geofencing, meaning it is free to go anywhere and do anything an experienced driver can do. Level 5 works primarily off of a pickup location and dropoff destination. The benefits from Level 5 create a whole new world of opportunity, tremendous advantages for people without a license, senior citizens, and people with disabilities that might hold them back from driving can finally feel free. 

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