Autonomous cars are still a rather visionary view into the future of mobility, but not all that far from becoming reality. Taking your hands off the steering wheel can provide many advantages, not least because it allows drivers to use their travelling time for personal use.
Traffic congestion, lack of parking space and ruthless road users – who wouldn't want to leave that all behind when driving? Floating along with the current will be no problem in the future, because autonomous vehicles will be taking control of the wheel within the next few years. Sceptics may call this a fantasy, and in truth, we are still a few years away from experience this change en masse.
However, according to a PwC survey, as early as 2030, every fourth newly registered car in Europe could be equipped with technology that enables autonomous driving at level 4 or 5. In the U.S. alone, that share could be up to ten percent of the new car sales, and in China even slightly more than a third – provided that the legal requirements allow this. In addition to this, the BMW Group stated at its Annual Accounts Press Conference 2019 that level 3 will already be implemented by 2021, potentially entirely changing the way we drive just two years from now.
The six steps of autonomous driving
But what exactly does that mean, autonomous driving at levels 3, 4 or 5? Which tasks does the car take over for the driver and in which development stage of autonomous driving?
In principle, there are six development stages of autonomous driving. The tasks the car is taking over for the driver depend on these levels:
- Level 0: Full driver responsibility. There is no system that interferes with driving operations.
- Level 1: A system assists the driver in performing the driving tasks. The system takes over subtasks, such as steering, accelerating and braking.
- Level 2: The vehicle drives semi-automatically, meaning that in specific situations it drives itself. The driver can take their hands off the steering wheel, but needs to monitor the system at all times.
- Level 3: In the case of highly automated driving, the driver no longer has to permanently monitor the system in specific driving situations. However, the driver must be able to take over control at any moment.
- Level 4: This level is known as fully automated driving. In specific driving situations, a driver is no longer necessary.
- Level 5: Cars that drive fully autonomously mean that no matter the situation, the car always is driving itself. The driver thus becomes a passenger.
Autonomous driving has the potential to transform the mobility industry, but many people today still view it critically. The more automated the driving gets, the more sceptical people become. Around three-quarters of Germans and Americans, and almost two-thirds of British citizens, rate driving assistance solutions positively. In contrast, when it comes to fully autonomous driving, the positive rating drops significantly to only slightly above or below 20 percent.
Facts indicate that autonomous driving will soon be capable of ensuring much safer driving conditions and improve traffic conditions. Because one thing is clear: the number one cause of accidents are based on man-made errors, and computer-controlled systems can make a significant contribution to reducing the frequency of accidents. As is so often the case with new technologies, the lack of experience with new systems naturally leads to greater scepticism. On the other hand, media reports about accidents involving autonomous test vehicles unsettle people. Nevertheless, in practice, computer-controlled cars will cause significantly fewer accidents than cars with human drivers.
More safety and also much more comfort
Autonomous vehicles not only have an advantage where safety is concerned, but also in regards to comfort. Driving without driving opens up completely new perspectives for car journeys. Without having to concentrate on traffic, the driver can use the time for individual purposes. No matter whether for work or leisure, there are a multitude of activities for passengers in an autonomous and networked vehicle. Attending an important event and want to go through your presentation one last time? No problem. Headed to a friend’s birthday party and didn’t have a chance to create the playlist in advance? Do it on the way. Autonomous vehicles not only offer their passengers more safety, but also much more freedom.