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Levels of automated driving

The term automated driving describes the ability of vehicles to move without a human driver. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) has divided automated driving into six levels. These levels are defined below, according to the SAE J3016 guideline. If you would like to experience the individual stages of automated driving yourself and get to know the most important differences, you are welcome to do so in our DEL.

Level 0 – No Driving Automation

The driver takes over the dynamic driving task, and must constantly keep an eye on the traffic. Supporting systems such as the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) or the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) can be installed in the vehicle.

Level 1 – Driver Assistance

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) support the driver either in steering or in operating the accelerator and brakes. The cruise control fixes the selected speed, the lane-keeping assistant keeps the vehicle on the course when driving on the freeway, or the adaptive cruise control regulates the safe distance to the vehicle in front. You can take your feet off the accelerator/brake for a moment, but the driver must keep a constant eye on the traffic.

Level 2 – Partial Driving Automation

A Level 2 vehicle can stay in lane and brake/accelerate at the same time. For this purpose, various ADAS are coupled with each other, for example, the Adaptive Cruise Control (longitudinal guidance) together with the Lane Departure Warning System (lateral guidance). The driver can briefly take his hands off the steering wheel when the car is in partialautomated mode. However, he must always keep an eye on the traffic and the ADAS, correct malfunctions, and bear full responsibility at all times. The use of smartphones is not permitted at this level.

Level 3 – Conditional Driving Automation

The vehicle drives automatically in specific traffic scenarios, such as in traffic jams or on the freeway, and the driver can turn away from the traffic situation and the vehicle guidance. Because

the legislation is not yet clear, it is currently not 100 % certain whether working, reading the newspaper, or using a smartphone will be permitted at this level. The driver must always be ready to take over the wheel within a certain time window if the system requests him to do so by using a specific signal. This request can be made if the vehicle has reached its technical limits, for example by leaving the current traffic scenario, if a construction site is not marked clearly, or if there is a technical defect.

Level 4 – High Driving Automation

In defined situations (e. g. driving on the freeway in dry weather), the vehicle is fully controlled by the automated driving functions when all necessary specifications are met. The driver can devote himself to other activities such as looking out the window, working, reading, or sleeping. The automated driving system operates independently and does not prompt the driver to intervene. However, if the vehicle reaches its limits and the driver does not intervene, it will automatically maneuver itself into a safe state, for example by driving onto the hard shoulder and stopping there.

Level 5 – Full Driving Automation

The vehicle takes over the task of driving completely and steers itself under all conditions. Everyone in the vehicle becomes a passenger and can sit back and enjoy the journey. This offers the opportunity to extend the use of the vehicle to all people, regardless of age and driving ability. Children, adults, the elderly, and people with disabilities will no longer need a driver’s license to be mobile.

Postcard: Summary of the levels of automated driving according to the SAE J30161. (in German)

In the following, you will find our explanatory video on the individual stages of automated driving (German):