Driverless cars are getting closer. In fact, a lot of autonomous tech is already on our roads. We service a number of Audi vehicles with varying degrees of autonomy every day. With the first Level 3 vehicle set to be released this year, it might not be too long before we see a fully self-driving car arrive at our workshop for a service!

So this week, we thought we’d look at the six different levels of autonomous driving, as set out by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Where possible, we’ve given an example of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) already on our roads.

Six Levels of Autonomous Driving

Level 0: No Automation

The driver of the 1972 Audi 100 Coupe is in full control the entire time. This is a Level 0 vehicle. More modern Level 0s may have sensors to warn drivers. Blind Spot Detection and Lane Assist are examples of Level 0 automation. They can warn drivers but do not have sustained vehicle control.

Audi 100 Coupe, Audi mechanics Melbourne

Level 1: Driver Assistance

A lot of the cars on the road may already classify as having Level 1 Automation. Adaptive Cruise Control is classified as Level 1. Cruise Control, of course, keeps your car travelling at the same speed without your intervention. When approaching another vehicle, you have to manually brake. Adaptive Cruise Control, however, matches the speed of the car in front. The system will slow down for you. This is an example of Level 1 automation.

At this level, the driver must remain fully in control of the car at all times and is still responsible for maintaining distance and speed, for steering and for braking.

Level 2: Partial Automation

In some situations, the driver can give control over to Audi’s computer for “continuous longitudinal and lateral” movements. Essentially, this means acceleration, braking and light steering (lane adjustment). The driver must maintain the system and take control as needed. Audi Traffic Assist is a Partial Automation system.

This video shows a simulated Audi Q7 with Audi Adaptive Cruise Control and Traffic Assist, examples of Level 1 and Level 2 Automation: 

Level 3: Conditional Automation

The 2019 Audi A8 is rumoured to have reached Level 3 Automation. At this level, the driver no longer needs to monitor the system permanently, and is free to enjoy their infotainment. But Level 3 Automation still requires the driver to take responsibility when needed, so they must remain in their seat!

The Audi A8’s Traffic Jam Pilot is said to meet Level 3 conditions. Traffic Jam Pilot takes control of starting, steering, accelerating and braking on freeways, provided traffic is below 60km/h and there is a barrier separating the two directions.

Level 4: High Automation

Level 4 systems are limited to specific areas. They require no instruction from the driver. Once they leave the specific area, for example a parking lot, without a response from the driver, the vehicle will pull over somewhere safe.

There are no Level 4 vehicles currently available for purchase anywhere in the world. However, Volkswagen AG are testing Level 4 autonomous parking or VW and Audi at Hamburg Airport:

Level 5: Full Automation

Level 5 is full sci-fi. Future Level 5 vehicles might not necessarily even require steering wheels or pedals — everything is done by the vehicle. Some say it’s still a long way to go until we are at fully autonomous vehicles. Others, like Management for Technical Development at Audi AG Board Member, Peter Mertens, disagree. He believes the first Level 5 Audi will go on show in 2021.

Audi A8

Audi A8 is the first vehicle to reach Level 3 Automation. Its AI can predict events up to ten seconds in the future. The vehicle is able to, at times and under certain conditions, take over from the driver, such as in traffic jams and parking situations.

As automated as they may become, every Audi still needs an annual service from a qualified Audi mechanic. And even in the future, when your vehicle can drive itself to our Audi service centre, it will still need an annual service. So book your Audi in today with Melbourne’s leading Audi mechanics.

audi a8, audi mechanics south melbourne