Into the future step by step
The path to automated driving will appear familiar to many: today a customer can configure their desired car such that on the one hand it has today’s driver assistance features (e.g. lane keeping assistant, adaptive cruise control with emergency braking, and highway driving assistant) for driving on the highway. On the other hand, they can decide to go without all the parking assistance systems that support the driver during maneuvering. In the future customers will still have this freedom of choice.
The available driving and parking functions for assisted and partially automated driving and parking already relieve the driver of some tasks. For example, the driving function “Adaptive Cruise Control” (ACC) can take over the continuous operation of the gas and brake pedals. The driver has to monitor the system and if necessary must resume the driving task himself.
In a few years from now, the first vehicles will be equipped with the necessary sensor systems and information processing that enable functions for high and full automation in specific use scenarios. To start with, we may expect automated driving functions for driving on highways and in traffic queues. In the more distant future, we will also see increasing driver support on journeys across country and in urban areas. The path to high and full automation is, however, not only one of technology, but it will also require amendments to both national and international legislation.
Six levels have been defined from 0 to 5 for national and international use to classify the degree of automation of the individual systems (see figure). This technical classification describes which tasks the system carries out, and which tasks/requirements the driver has to fulfill.
At Level 0 there are no automated driving functions. The driver performs the longitudinal control of the vehicle (i.e. maintaining speed, accelerating, and braking) and the lateral control (i.e. steering). There are no systems that intervene, only those that issue warnings.
At Level 1 a system can assume either longitudinal or lateral control of the vehicle, while the driver continuously performs the other task.
It is only at Level 2 that one speaks of partial automation, because the driver can now relinquish both tasks, i.e. longitudinal and lateral control, to the system in a certain use case. The driver continuously monitors the vehicle and the traffic during the journey. At all times they must be in a position to resume control of the vehicle immediately.
At Level 3 the system independently recognizes its limits, that is, the point at which its functions can no longer cope with the environmental conditions. In this case, the vehicle requests the driver to resume the task of driving. The driver no longer has to continuously monitor the longitudinal and lateral control of the vehicle. However, he must be able to resume driving when the system signals him to do so, with some extra time in reserve.
From Level 4 onwards, the driver can hand over the entire task of driving to the system in specific use cases. These scenarios refer to the type of road, the speed range, and the environmental conditions.
The last development level is that of driverless driving, Level 5. The vehicle can completely independently perform the task of driving in full on all types of roads, in all speed ranges and under all environmental conditions. At present nobody can say when this level of automation will be achieved. The research and development is initially focusing on the automation levels for partially, highly, and fully automated driving. Fully automated driving on highways will probably become possible in the decade after next.