Autonomous Cars vs Driver Assistance in 2021

Op-Ed by Wimsett and A.R. Bunch

Swiss Semi-Autonomous Street Car

People are worried about sharing the road with autonomous cars, although there is a race by the car companies to create a level 5…

Level 5?

Every car has a level of autonomy. Level 5 is the highest.

Here is this list in full:

Level 0: This is a regular car with no autonomous features. The driver is in full capability – and full liability – of the car.

Level 1: Only one task is done autonomously, whether it is braking or so on. Otherwise the driver needs to be in charge. Presumably if anything goes wrong with the one thing being done autonomously, you need to take that over too.

Level 2: This car can handle more than one task, for example driver assist, braking and so on. This is being carried out by the big names such as Cadillac and Tesla. Unfortunately, it still isn’t considered self-driving as such, you need human intervention.

Level 3: This type of vehicle can only be driven autonomously if the conditions are correct. In emergencies, the car needs to switch to a regular car. Only the Audi A8 currently fits this description in the US.

Level 4: These show a massive difference from Level 3, they don’t require a driver. These at the moment cannot be purchased, they can’t drive in bad weather or at high speeds.

Level 5: Fully autonomous car and cannot switch off even for emergencies.

This technology relies on a number of sensors, but they need to be thorough. As hinted above there is a whole range of outside variables such as weather, traffic, road layout and so on. Either radar or laser can be used. But it is needs to be better in order to work on US roads.

The whole idea of autonomous cars is that comprehensive self-driving removes all the “driver error” but what of computer error? The theory is that even if a particular driver was able to outperform a computer driver, if every car on the road were computer driven, we’d have fewer accidents. The bad drivers wouldn’t be wracking up wrecks and the computers would learn to avoid each other by driving in a predictable manor.

Right now, at level 1, 2, and 3 the most effective use of autonomous driving capability is to reduce driver fatigue. In a way, these systems are just sophisticated versions of cruise control. Driver assists like emergency breaking, etc. aren’t controversial and don’t require a huge outlay of federal highway dollars to build infrastructure in order to enable them to operate “autonomously.” So how long before we’re banned from driving our own cars? Maybe we at the kicker will hazard a guess when car makers actually create the first level 5 car.

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