With the continuous progress in the development of autonomous cars, we've seen each level represent an additional step where the system takes charge. As the auto industry continues to evolve with the goal of reaching full automation (Level 5), it’s obvious that a world with all the potential possibilities that Level 5 promises to offer will have an impact on humanity and society in many ways.
A brief history of the evolution of autonomous vehicle technology
The past century has seen many experiments with autonomy. In GM’s 1939 exhibit, Norman Bel Geddes created what could be described as the first self-driving car. He presented an electric vehicle (EV) guided by radio-controlled electromagnetic fields generated with magnetized metal spikes embedded in the roadway.
In the early 1990s, the first autonomous car system using neural networks was created at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1995, the NavLab 5, an autonomous vehicle, drove coast to coast from Pittsburgh to San Diego, with researchers Dean Pomerleau and Todd Jochem controlling speed and braking.
While pioneering projects have been in the works for decades, it’s only been in the past 20 years that driverless vehicles have started to evolve for personal use. For example, vehicles at Level 1 autonomy with park assist or adaptive cruise control systems are now available for car buyers.
Truly driverless vehicles are a longer-term focus for carmakers as technology evolves. The primary focus areas for carmakers are customer experience and efforts toward bringing EVs to market successfully. It’ll be the look and feel of the car—and how it improves and engages with consumers’ digital lives—that will create the most brand-loyal customers. This evolution will also power the movement toward and confidence in driverless vehicles.
How close are we to Level 5 autonomy?
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has created a useful classification for understanding the different levels of automation in vehicles. The six stages begin at Level 0, where no automation is present. Many vehicles on the road today are Level 0, meaning the human driver is fully in control of the vehicle and performs all of the dynamic tasks associated with driving. As the levels progress, there is more automation present.