ITE is stepping up its game. Jerome Lutin, Alain Kornhauser, and Eva Lerner-Lam have put together the best primer I've seen on autonomous vehicles (The Revolutionary Development of Self-Driving Vehicles and Implications fo the Transportation Engineering Profession – page 28 of the Journal).
NHTSA has broken the concept into the following five levels (text from article):
- Level 0 (No Automation): The human is in complete and sole control of safety-critical functions – brake, throttle, steering – at all times.
- Level 1 (Function-Specific Automation): The human has complete authority but cedes limited control of certain normal driving or in crash-imminent situations. Examples are adaptive cruise control, electronic stability control, and automatic breaking.
- Level 2 (Combined Function Automation): Automation of at least two control functions designed to work in harmony in certain driving situations. Example would be adaptive cruise control workking with lane centering. Enables hands off wheel and foot off pedal operation. Driver is still responsible for monitoring and safe operation and is expected to be available at all times to resume control of vehicle.
- Level 3 (Limited Self Driving): Vehicle controls all saefy functions under certain traffic and environmental conditions. Human can cede monitoring authority to vehicle, which must alert driver if conditions reuqire transition to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occassional control.
- Levl 4 ( Full Self Driving Automation): Vehicle controls all safety functions and monitors conditions for the entire trip. The human provides destination or navigation input but is not expected to be available for control during the trip. Responsibility for safe operation rests solely on the automated system.
Google is promising to have Level 4 car out in 2018. Mercedes is selling the first Level 2 car next year.
Now the flipside (thanks Matin Foomani!). Here's a Forbes article on hacking a car's computer systems and a video from them below. Very scary. Clearly there's a lot of work to be done.