Skip to main content

AutoDrive Challenge Resources: AutoDrive Specifics

Levels of Autonomy

Connected vehicles use communication technologies to communicate with:

  • the vehicle's driver

  • other cars on the road - vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)

  • roadside infrastructure - vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I)

  • the "Cloud"

Fully autonomous vehicles are defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as “those in which operation of the vehicle occurs without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to constantly monitor the roadway while operating in self-driving mode.”.  The NHTSA has established five levels of vehicle automation:

  • No-Automation (Level 0): The driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls – brake, steering, throttle, and motive power – at all times.

  • Function-specific Automation (Level 1): Automation at this level involves one or more specific control functions. Examples include electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes, where the vehicle automatically assists with braking to enable the driver to regain control of the vehicle or stop faster than possible by acting alone.

  • Combined Function Automation (Level 2): This level involves automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison to relieve the driver of control of those functions. An example of combined functions enabling a Level 2 system is adaptive cruise control in combination with lane centering.

  • Limited Self-Driving Automation (Level 3): Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time. The second-generation Google car is an example of limited self-driving automation.

  • Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles. The third-generation Google car is an example of full self-driving automation. Vehicles with level 4 automation may also be referred to autonomous vehicles.

Note: Vehicles with automation levels above 3 must also incorporate connected vehicle technologies.


Information is provided by Eastern Transportation Knowledge Network

SAE Levels of Autonomy