Timeline for Fully Automated Cars

You’ve been driving on the road for hours and now your back aches, your eyes ache, even your brain aches from having to pay attention to the road. You could have been catching up on work, writing emails, or watching a movie marathon in the amount of time you’ve been driving. Like many drivers, you’re probably wishing driver- less cars existed. Too bad they are just fiction only found in Sci-Fi movies and books.

Or are they? For many years, people have joked about the possibility of fully automated cars and the prospect that manual driving would no longer be necessary. With technological advances in the car manufacturing industry, automated cars might not as fictitious as once thought.

What Is a Fully Automated Car?
If you have ever seen the moviesI, Robot, Minority Report, or Batman, you have seen a fully automated car. At least, you have seen what Hollywood has imagined them to look like. Think of a car that car drives on its own, without the driver having to brake, steer, or pay attention to surrounding traffic. Though it lacks human control, a driverless car, in theory, still runs like a regular car. They still have engines, fuel injectors, and wheels (at least, for now).

Levels of Self-Driving Cars
It’s important to understand there are several categories of self-driving cars. These levels are defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The SAE is a global organization that develops standards for engineering professionals. They are also the authority and premier resource for all things transportation. The SAE has determined six levels to classify different types of fully automated cars.

Level 0. Cars with no automated assistance for the driver. Most cars are categorized at this level.

Level 1. There are several safety systems in cars that lightly assist the driver in preventing incidents. The collision mitigation braking system is an example of this. Car brakes are set to automatically engage in the case of an immediate collision.

Level 2. Some newer car models are developed with level 2 systems, defined as semi-autonomous systems. These systems can take over for a driver either automatically or manually applied by the driver. Acceleration, braking, and steering assistance all fall into this level of automated cars.

Level 3. This level extends to what the SAE characterizes as “some driving modes.” This means that a car can handle a certain amount of self-driving in a narrow set of given parameters. Driving on a freeway during the daylight is considered one of these parameters. It is a safer environment than in a city, with fewer variables to account for. Instead of being able to fully take over 100% of the driving distance, a level 3 car can ask for human assistance. The driver is then expected to take over the driving duties.

 Level 4. This level encompasses the autonomous capabilities. A level 4 car can handle all the driving capabilities and does not need human interventions. While this level is considered to take control of the driving, it is still limited to only some driving modes. This is what sets it apart from level 5. 

Level 5. The utmost level of fully automated cars set by the SAE is level 5. Like a level 4 car, it takes over all driving responsibilities but can do so in all driving modes. This capability isn’t limited by any weather conditions, unmapped territory, or terrain. Right now, a level 5 automated car is purely theoretical. While leaps and bounds are happening with self-driving cars, it’s unlikely that this type of car will be on the roads anytime in the next century.

The Google Car

To date, there is no fully automated car yet available on the market. One company, though, has created a self-driving car that is now driving on public roads.Waymostarted out as the Google Self-Driving Car Project in 2009. In 2015, the project was completed by giving a blind man in Texas a ride in their driverless car.

Today, Waymo is still testing their automated car in California, Texas, Washington, and Arizona. They have a whole fleet of automated cars with test drivers inside to give feedback. While still not flooding the car market, Waymo is dedicated to developing the safest navigation and driving systems to provide everyone with a safer mode of transportation.

Developing Technology
The race for fully automated cars is currently set on two tracks. The first is revolutionary development. Many manufacturers are using this method in cars today. They add semi-automated systems to their cars, hoping to gradually adjust the public to self-controlled cars. As the population becomes normalized to one system, these manufacturers go on to develop the next technological advance to introduce in their upcoming models.

The second development method is revolutionary. This is the type of car the Google Project created. Instead of slowly acclimating to driverless cars, some manufacturers are ready to jump in feet first. Revolutionary method companies are looking to create a fully automated car, test it, and then make it readily available as soon as it’s ready and safe.

Several car companies are already making big plans to introduce automated cars in the next decade.

Ford. The Ford Motor Company has made some rather ambitious announcements for    their driver-less car plans. It appears they are looking to join the revolutionary track.

o   2019: Two level 2 autonomous systems, Traffic Jam Assist, and Fully Automated Parking
o   2021: A level 4 driver-less car without a steering wheel or foot pedals.

 Honda. While other car manufacturers are keeping the newest technology on their luxury vehicles, Honda is pushing to equip their most basic models.

o   2020: Honda is looking to introduce a level 3 basic automated car for highway use. They haven’t been very specific with details, due to predicted legislative or technological stalls.
o   2040: While they’re keeping their plans low-key, Honda has still set its sights to have no accidents in their vehicles in twenty years.

Nissan. Combining both the evolutionary and revolutionary methods, Nissan hopes to have ten fully automated car models on the market in just three years, though not all will be available in the U.S.

o   2018: A level 3 car that can change lanes on its own on the highway.
o   2020: A level 4 model that can navigate through intersections in urban areas.

Final Thoughts
In just a few short years, the car industry is going to be revolutionized with both semi- and fully automated systems. While the technology will be invented and tested, what might stall the process is legislation. There are many variables when driving that humans have learned to adjust and react to.

Many still question the safety and efficiency of a driverless car. To avoid lawsuits, standards are going to be put in place that might take awhile to meet. Fully automated cars will be around, but it may take until the late 2020s until they’re commonplace on the road.

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