Auto industry expects the Level 3 autonomous vehicles to be highly commercialized in 2022-2022
Cars are becoming smarter; they sense danger and detect the driver’s stress level. The term autonomous cars now sound quite familiar to us, and it feels like it would come to our lives sooner.
So how far have we come? Experts use six levels of driving automation defined by the J2016 standard in 2016 and 2018, from SAE (Society Automotive Engineers) level 0 to 5. A self-driving car is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving safely with little or no human input. Self-driving cars combine a variety of sensors to perceive their surroundings, such as radar. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.
There are 6 levels of vehicle autonomy depending on how much the driver is needed
There are totally 6 levels of vehicle autonomy according to the SAE standard. At Level 0 to 2, the driver must be in control during travel in the vehicle. On the other hand, at the Level 3 to 5, the vehicle would be in charge. At these levels the driver does not necessarily have to take care of ‘driving’ the car.
Most of the self-driving vehicles that exist in the market are from level 0s to 2s. Many automakers are talking about advanced driver assistance systems or ADAS these days, meaning that the vehicle features a few automated systems for driver assistance, such as steering or accelerating.
At Level 0 to 2, the driver must be in control during travel in the vehicle
At level 0, the automated system may issue warnings and momentarily intervene but has no sustained vehicle control. At first the SAE standard defined level 0 as ‘no driver assistance at all’, but the vehicle with simple warning system is also considered as a level 0 car. Forward Collision-avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW), and Driver Attention Warning (DAW) are the examples. Still the driver has to take charge of controlling the vehicle.
At Level 1, the driver and the system share control of the vehicle. Examples are systems where the driver controls steering and the automated system controls engine power to maintain a set speed (Cruise Control) or engine and brake power to maintain and vary speed (Adaptive Cruise Control or ACC). Lane Keeping Assistance is another example of level 1 self-driving.
HMG’s Highway Driving Assist (HDA) is a part of the level 2 system
At Level 2 expands the meaning of advanced driver assistance systems(ADAS). The vehicle can control both steering and accelerating/decelerating, though a human siting in the driver’s seat must take control of the car at any time when it is necessary. Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis with the application of Highway Driving Assist (HDA) qualify as Level 2.
Most of Hyundai Motor Group(HMG)’s vehicles are at Level 2. From Hyundai Kona and Ioniq from Kia Seltos, all of them house HDA system as an option. This kind of system is now considered as merely user convenience. HDA allows vehicles to maintain the speed and a safe distance from the vehicle ahead in a highway.
At Level 3 the driver must still be prepared to intervene when needed
However, ADAS does not allow the driver to take the term “hands off” literally. Still the driver should take all the driving part, not to mention keeping his/her eyes on what is around the vehicle because all the features can just assist the driver.
From Level 3 to Level 5, on the other hand, the vehicle gets to be ‘intelligent’. The automated system monitors the whole driving environment and takes actions accordingly. The differences that lie between Level 3, 4, and 5 depend on how smart the vehicle is and how much the driver is needed.
A Level 3 vehicle can detect everything around and can make decisions for itself under certain conditions such as on a highway, ？but in any case, the driver must be alert and ready to take manual control at any time. The vehicle cannot guarantee the safety of the passengers when it alerts the driver to take control, so the driver should be always ready for such circumstances.
From Level 4 the driver can do things other than driving
A Level 4 vehicle can operate in self-driving mode most of the time. There is a steering wheel and acceleration/braking pedals for the driver in case of emergency, but they are not frequently used. The Level 4 system, however, cannot operate the vehicle when it runs under certain conditions, e.g., when it is off road. The driver should take control then.
A Level 5 vehicle means it does not require the driver’s attention. You can even take the steering wheel or acceleration/braking pedals away from a Level 5 vehicle. The vehicle will be free from GPS or navigation systems, able to go anywhere and do anything that a driver can do. Fully autonomous cars are undergoing testing in several places, but none are yet available to the general public. We can only see a cool driverless taxi in a sci-fi movie.
The cabin of a self-driving car has nothing to do with driving at all
It helps us understand the concept of autonomous driving if we imagine how the instructor interferes during our driving lessons. In many countries there are another set of a steering wheel, acceleration/braking pedals attached to the passenger seat in the cars designed for driving lessons. Imagine the Sunday driver is the artificial intelligence, and the instructor is you.
When a Sunday driver operates the car in a totally inexperienced way, the instructor gets to take control of the vehicle. Still the instructor won’t interfere unless it is really necessary, and the Sunday driver is controlling the vehicle for the entire trip. This is Level 3 autonomy.
It helps us understand the concept of autonomous driving if you imagine how the instructor interferes during your driving lesson
As the Sunday driver learns how to drive well, the instructor can just watch without any intervention. The steering wheel and acceleration/braking pedals on the passenger seat are only for the emergency situations. This is Level 4 autonomy. And as the driver becomes pretty much skilled and experienced, the instructor no longer needs to do anything. From this moment on, the instructor becomes just a passenger. This is Level 5 autonomy.
Hyundai unveiled the Auto Valet Parking System concept last year
Even if the ADAS system is fully functioning almost without needing a driver, we can’t say we have made a fully autonomous car. Driving in different environments is much more complicated than we think, and human technologies have not reached the level of creating a self-driving system.
Level 5 vehicles are completely capable of handling any road conditions or type of weather
Fully autonomous vehicles must be able to respond properly to the incredibly diverse situations they could experience, such as motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, and a virtually infinite number of other obstacles. In addition, Level 5 vehicles must perform regardless of weather, road, or lighting conditions.
In order for fully autonomous vehicles to be developed, high-performance artificial intelligence must be created in advance. In other words, cars should be able to think and act like humans. Of course there are a number of obstacles to make such a thing. It could cost too much to be commercialized, or there might be no feasible way to test the vehicles in all situations.
Autonomous cars won’t work until we have 5G to make everything connected
This is why the Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) system becomes essential, as the V2X and autonomous vehicles could complement each other. It is the way of passing information from a vehicle to anything that may affect it, and vice versa. Its adaptive cruise control will help the vehicle adapt the speed in heavy traffic to the flow, keeping a safe distance to the vehicle ahead. Such a system will help bring fully autonomous cars come to reality.
Moreover, the ultimate goal of Level 5 autonomy is all about safety. In order for this to come, we need to give the system revolutionary leaps in high-performance computing and networking. Just as a child needs the parents’ unconditional love and care for a long time, cars need substantial amount of time and investment in order to become fully autonomous. Thanks to so many great engineers working tirelessly, the era of self-driving cars will come sooner than we think.
Chung-hee(Jason) Ryu is doing his work in automotive journalism over twenty years and most of the period as a freelancer. He was a staff writer for well-known automotive magazines in South Korea such as Carlife and Motor Magazine, and also an author of 'Explaining Automotive Terms and Basics' and 'The Car Inside-out'. He is a jury of International Engine and Powertrain Of The Year awards, since 2017.
*Any opinions expressed in this material are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the HMG.