Level 6: A future vision of Autonomous Vehicles

The advancement of robotics and artificial intelligence in the automotive industry opens doors for increasingly autonomous vehicles.

And in this sense, I believe that the standard levels of autonomy in autonomous cars [1][2] need to evolve, keeping up with the state of the art technology.

The picture below illustrates the current levels for ease of understanding [2]:

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One of the paradigms of the current levels, in my view, is to consider that the vehicle itself is a robot, which is quite natural, after all, it is an evolving machine and actually taking on more and more levels of automation and robotization of its tasks, even a point of being able to drive itself without relying on the old and traditional drivers: the people.

However, I believe that this paradigm will be broken in the future, perhaps sooner than might be expected, and therefore I propose a different evolutionary view to the next levels.

Level 6: A new paradigm and a proposal for the next Levels of Autonomy

Imagine that your car is at Level 0. This is not very difficult for those who live in Brazil, as in my case, where most vehicles have almost no ADAS assistance system [3].

But someone in a robotics industry other than the automotive industry creates a humanoid driver, ie an anthropomorphic robot with the ability and competence to drive your car.

How do we consider this scenario, compared to current levels? In my view, by no means, because the current paradigm is not foreseeing this possibility.

However, we can consider this to be a more advanced level, which I will call here the Level 6, with a forward-thinking view where robots, humanoids, will be able to drive as well, or better, than people, ie human drivers. And — the most paradoxical — the humanoid driver could, in theory, use a vehicle with autonomy from level 0 to 5.

And Level 6 can evolve to new levels, precisely with the ability of real robots to assume these functions, allowing the creation of successive levels, according to different attributes of piloting different machines, such as flying airplanes.

By Rogerio Figurelli at 05/29/2020


[1] The Levels of driving automation


Level 0 – The human driver does all the driving.

Level 1 – An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) on the vehicle can sometimes assist the human driver with either steering or braking/accelerating, but not both simultaneously.

Level 2 – An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) on the vehicle can itself actually control both steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances. The human driver must continue to pay full attention (“monitor the driving environment”) at all times and perform the rest of the driving task.

Level 3 – An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can itself perform all aspects of the driving task under some circumstances. In those circumstances, the human driver must be ready to take back control at any time when the ADS requests the human driver to do so. In all other circumstances, the human driver performs the driving task.

Level 4 – An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can itself perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment – essentially, do all the driving – in certain circumstances. The human need not pay attention in those circumstances.

Level 5 – An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can do all the driving in all circumstances. The human occupants are just passengers and need never be involved in driving.

[2] The Levels of driving automation


Level 0: Automated system issues warnings and may momentarily intervene but has no sustained vehicle control.

Level 1 (“hands on”): The driver and the automated 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); and Parking Assistance, where steering is automated while speed is under manual control. The driver must be ready to retake full control at any time. Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II is a further example of level 1 self-driving.

Level 2 (“hands off”): The automated system takes full control of the vehicle (accelerating, braking, and steering). The driver must monitor the driving and be prepared to intervene immediately at any time if the automated system fails to respond properly. The shorthand “hands off” is not meant to be taken literally. In fact, contact between hand and wheel is often mandatory during SAE 2 driving, to confirm that the driver is ready to intervene.

Level 3 (“eyes off”): The driver can safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks, e.g. the driver can text or watch a movie. The vehicle will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. The driver must still be prepared to intervene within some limited time, specified by the manufacturer, when called upon by the vehicle to do so.

Level 4 (“mind off”): As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety, e.g. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. Self-driving is supported only in limited spatial areas (geofenced) or under special circumstances, like traffic jams. Outside of these areas or circumstances, the vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip, e.g. park the car, if the driver does not retake control.

Level 5 (“steering wheel optional”): No human intervention is required at all. An example would be a robotic taxi.

[3] Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)


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