In order to keep everyone more or less on the same page, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed a convenient 5 level nomenclature to define the different levels of autonomy within the self-driving car industry. The chart above shows the 5 levels and also level zero which is no autonomy at all.
This week we will just discuss level 1 and 2 because they together form what is known as ADAS or Advanced Driver Assistance System. Almost all modern cars on the road today employ some amount of L1 or L2 level autonomy. It is often marketed under names such as “Cadillac Super Cruise” or “Subaru EyeSight”. The distinction between L1 and L2 is not so important but one can think of L1 as driver assist functions that have been available for decades such as basic cruise control, anti-lock brakes and stability control. L2 on the other hand are more recent features (introduced in the last decade or so) such as adaptive cruise control (speed up or slow down vehicle based on traffic flow), lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, parking assistance and autonomous emergency braking.
L2 is sometimes referred to as the “feet-off” stage of autonomy since with adaptive cruise control you don’t need to accelerate or brake for stretches of time. However, L1 and L2 technologies are almost passe now since every major manufacturer has the technology and it is on its way to becoming ubiquitous. All the marketing hype is around the next stages of autonomy which we will discuss next week.