Autonomous vehicles are also known as driverless cars, self-driving cars, robotic cars or automated vehicles. A fully automated vehicle is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. It can detect its surroundings using a variety of techniques, such as radar, GPS and computer vision.
Simple models based on Edmonton vehicle statistics suggest that if adoption is very rapid, fully automated vehicles could make up a large part of the vehicles on the road within 15 to 20 years. If the pace is slower, it could take 30+ years for fully automated vehicles to make up the majority of cars on Edmonton roads.
There are 6 levels of driving automation:
- Level 0: No automation, human driver monitors driving environment.
- Level 1: Driver assistance, human driver monitors driving environment but some functions can be done automatically by the car, like steering or accelerating, for example.
- Level 2: Partial automation, human driver monitors driving environment and must be ready to take control of the vehicle when necessary.
- Level 3: Conditional automation, automated driving system monitors driving environment. Driver is present and can take over but is not required to monitor the car.
- Level 4: High automation, automated driving system monitors driving environment. Vehicle performs all safety-critical functions and monitors the roadway, but does not cover every driving scenario.
- Level 5: Full automation, automated driving system monitors driving environment. Does not require a human driver and car function is equal to that of a human driver.
GM, Ford and Tesla are working on automated cars. Tesla “Autopilot” is considered Level 2 automation.
Level 4 automated light-duty electric shuttles have been tested and implemented in parts of Europe, Japan and the US.
Level 5 automation (fully automated vehicles that don’t require a human driver) is not yet available, and is expected to emerge between 5 years and decades from now.
Level 4 automated vehicle technology performs all safety-critical functions and is currently available.
Predictions about when Level 5 automation will be available vary. Uber expects its entire fleet to be driverless by 2030.