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February 2022 | Products

Discover more about autonomous vehicles: an innovation in the components manufacturing sector.

The vehicle is advancing towards autonomy in driving. Thus, everything indicates that, in the future, autonomous vehicles will be capable of emulating human driving abilities. This is possible because these autonomous cars incorporate the components and computer systems (sensors, processors, software, and actuators) necessary to handle and control the vehicle without the need for a human driver, ensuring safety.

However, we still don't see fully autonomous cars on the roads. Nevertheless, cars capable of parking themselves are already in use, which is why the components industry and the automotive sector are progressing in the levels of autonomous driving that exist.


Autonomous Vehicles: Levels of Autonomous Driving


Different organizations have established various classifications for the levels of autonomous driving in autonomous vehicles.

The first one was developed by NHTSA, a federal agency in the United States responsible for road safety. Shortly after, in Germany, BASt, the Federal Highway Research Institute, introduced another classification, which, like the American one, included five levels of autonomy for autonomous vehicles.

A year later, in 2014, the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), an International Society of Automotive Engineers, created another classification with six levels of automation.

The OICA (International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers) developed a classification by combining BASt's and SAE's, more in line with the latter.

In this regard, of all these classifications, the SAE classification is the most general and widely accepted. In fact, in 2016, NHTSA itself abandoned its own classification in favor of using the SAE classification.

According to the SAE classification, each level of autonomy in autonomous vehicles is determined by four aspects

  1. Vehicle movement: Is it under the control of a person or a machine? Considering two types of movement: longitudinal (braking and accelerating) or lateral (steering).
  2. Detection and response to objects or events through environmental monitoring systems: Is it performed by a person or a machine?
  3. Driver assistance: Is it the person or the machine that takes action in the event of automated system failures or when the conditions for operation are not met?
  4. Conditions for system operation (time, weather, speed, traffic, etc.): Are there conditions that limit its operation?

Thus, based on these aspects and the extent to which a human figure is necessary in autonomous vehicle driving, the SAE classification establishes six levels of autonomy in driving, ranging from 0 to 5.


Autonomous Driving: SAE Classification of Levels of Autonomy in Driving


  • Level 0: No autonomy in driving. All necessary driving actions are performed by the person operating the car or vehicle.
  • Level 1: Driver assistance. In this level of automation:
    • The vehicle incorporates some driving automation technology, either for longitudinal (acceleration and braking) or lateral (steering) control, but not both at the same time.
    • The driver performs the remaining driving tasks.
    • The system does not comprehensively detect or respond to objects and environmental events, and this task is performed by the driver.
    • The system operates under specific conditions, and the driver always manages and controls the driving, remaining attentive to everything that happens.
  • Level 2: Partial automation of driving. In Level 2:
    • The vehicle simultaneously incorporates automation systems for both longitudinal and lateral movement.
    • The person driving does not have to perform tasks related to movement.
    • The system does not detect objects or events, nor respond to them. This is done by the driver of the car or vehicle.
    • The system operates under specific conditions, and the driver must remain attentive. The driver is still the one driving the car or vehicle.
  • Level 3: Conditional automation of driving. At this level:
    • The vehicle incorporates technology and systems to control longitudinal and lateral movements simultaneously.
    • The system is capable of fully detecting and responding to objects and events.
    • The person would be the driver in cases where the system requests it or in the event of system failure, or when the operating conditions are not met. Thus, humans only drive when they need to intervene.
    • These operating conditions must still be met for the system to function.
  • Level 4: High autonomy in driving. In Level 4:
    • The vehicle has technology and systems to control longitudinal and lateral movements simultaneously.
    • The system has complete capability to detect and respond to objects and environmental events.
    • In the event of the main system failing, a backup system takes over and drives to a minimum risk point, eliminating the need for human intervention. The human driver's role disappears.
    • However, the system operates with limitations under specific conditions, so there may be situations where it cannot continue driving.
  • Level 5: Complete autonomy in driving. This is the highest level that autonomous vehicles can achieve.
    • The vehicle incorporates technology and systems to control longitudinal and lateral movements simultaneously.
    • Similarly, the system has complete capability to detect and respond to objects and events in the environment.
    • If the main system experiences a failure, a backup system takes over, driving to a minimum risk point, and human intervention is no longer required for driving if the system requests it or if a failure occurs.
    • There are no conditions limiting system operation, so the vehicle can continue driving at all times and under any circumstances without human intervention.
    • With all this, no human driver is needed to operate the car or vehicle.


Autonomous Cars: What Level of Autonomy Are We At?


According to the SAE classification, most of the cars with some level of automation today fall under Level 2, offering partial autonomy in driving. However, we are moving towards Level 3, conditional automation, which is already observed in some upcoming models that will be on the market.

In this regard, by the end of the year in Europe, Mercedes received European certification for a Level 3 autonomous driving system, which will be featured in the Mercedes S-Class and its electric version, the Mercedes EQS. However, these vehicles will only be allowed to operate on German roads because Germany is the only European country that has developed regulations for this level of autonomous driving.

Thus, automated cars are on the verge of Level 3 automation, with the expectation that fully autonomous vehicles can become a reality by 2030.

To achieve this, automotive component manufacturers are investing significant efforts in advancing connected mobility, which, along with sustainable mobility, is the future toward which component manufacturers in Spain, affiliated with Autoparts from Spain, are looking.

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