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Definition: autonomous vehicle levels


Following are the stages of vehicle automation. Each level includes all the functions of the previous levels. See self-driving car.

Level 0
No real automation; however, all cars have built-in safety features such as anti-lock brakes (see ABS), as well as warnings for open doors and unbuckled seat belts. See TPM.

Level 1
In 2021, most new cars have some or all of these driver-assist features: navigation system, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance system, lane departure system, blind spot monitoring and adaptive headlights.

Level 2
User-initiated self-driving; however, drivers must have their hands on the wheel, at least periodically. In 2014, Tesla's Autopilot was first to reach this level in a production vehicle. In 2021, several car models are at this stage.

Level 3
Autonomous driving but driver must be able to take control. In 2021, a few car models are approaching this stage.

Level 4
Complete autonomous driving when conditions are appropriate.

Level 5
No steering wheel. Fully automated.




Level 5 Became a Goal
Around the mid-2000s, the idea of fully driverless cars in the future was getting attention as the cover of the September 2016 issue of PC Magazine highlights. (Image courtesy of PCMag.com.)