While all the buzz these days is about self-driving or autonomous cars, you probably won’t be seeing them on the road anytime soon, other than for test-drive and/or research purposes. For now, you’re going to have to stick to the usual combustion driven engine vehicle you’ve come to know and love. Or, if you’re more tech and climate savvy, you might have already graduated to a Tesla electric vehicle.
One thing is for certain, you’re still going to have to get behind the wheel to control your own destiny. This means trying to avoid accidents, speeding tickets, and nightmare-of-nightmares, getting your keys locked inside your car while it’s still running, or while you have a small child inside it.
If you mistakenly lock your keys in the car, it’s important not to blame yourself. It happens all the time. Luckily, you can call a car locksmith who will come to the rescue within minutes.
What all this boils down to is this: we won’t be relying on artificial intelligence to be getting us around on the nation’s highways and byways anytime soon. That said, autonomous vehicles are indeed coming. Just not quite yet.
According to new report out of the UK, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, had to recently backtrack his prediction that by 2020 there’d be over a million cars with self-driving capabilities occupying the world’s roads. He was quoted as saying that generalized self-driving is a really hard problem since it requires solving a big part of real-world AI.
It’s true, Musk didn’t expect it to be so hard. But the safety aspect, or lack thereof, of self-driving vehicles couldn’t be more obvious. Apart from the many technological hurdles involved, there are other issues that need to be tackled like regulatory restrictions, cybersecurity (imagine someone locking your keys and your child in your self-driving car with the press of a button from half a world away), and “wider-scale infrastructural necessities.”
That said, it might be time to put the brakes on the notion of an autonomous vehicle (AV) being parked in your driveway anytime soon.
Different AV Levels
Not all AVs are the same. There are several different classifications of self-driving cars presently in development today. The levels range from 0 to 5, with 0 being the simplest in design, such as a car with zero autonomy, like an old Jeep Wrangler. From there, things begin to get a little more complicated.
Say the experts, standard documentation for AVs is decided upon by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Here’s what they’ve come up with thus far.
A level 1 AV means the driver is in control of the car from start to the end of a drive. Any automated driving systems are relegated to brake or acceleration assistance (not both). For instance, a level 1 car might contain adaptive cruise control or lane centering capabilities.
Like a level 1 AV, a level 2 vehicle is in control from start to end of the drive. But in this case, the “partly automated driving support system” features both acceleration and brake assistance.
For instance, a level 2 automobile might be equipped with lane centering and adaptive cruise control. Tesla’s “AutoPilot” function is an example of this technology.
Here’s where things get a little more complicated. A level 3 AV means that the driver is more like a rider. He or she is no longer controlling the vehicle when certain automated driving features are engaged. However, the driver must take over control of the car when the vehicle AV features specifically request it.
At present, Honda is said to have developed the only level 3 autonomous vehicle with its self-driving Legend sedan. It’s “Traffic Jam Pilot” system is said to control braking, acceleration and even steering under some circumstances.
Once you’ve reached a level 4 car, you can now consider the vehicle fully self-driving and autonomously controlled. The driver is not responsible for controlling the car, nor is he expected to take over control when automated features are engaged. But take note, a level 4 car can only be utilized inside special “geofenced” areas, for obvious safety concerns.
Presently, a self-driving vehicle that’s classified as a level 5 does not currently exist in operational mode. But this category means the driver becomes a passenger in that the car will drive itself to any location minus “the need for any human interference” whatsoever.
Welcome to the future of driving. But not yet.