Cars That Are Almost Self-Driving

2018 Tesla Model S
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The Levels of Self-Driving Cars

There are several different types of self-driving vehicles; the Society of Automotive Engineers has classified them into stages ranging from Level 0 to 5.

Level 0: Many of the cars available today are Level 0, as they lack any autonomous driving functions. The driver is responsible for all steering, acceleration, and braking, even if the vehicle is equipped with forward collision warning, cruise control, or lane departure warning.

Level 1: Level 1 autonomous vehicles have one or more systems that can intervene to brake, steer, or accelerate the car, but the systems do not work in tandem with one another. Examples of Level 1 features include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane keeping assist.

Level 2: Vehicles with Level 2 autonomous technology can simultaneously control steering and speed at the same time, without driver intervention for short periods. They cannot perform autonomously under all conditions. The driver is required to stay attentive and be able to regain control of the car at any time. The Tesla Model S (pictured above) is perhaps the best-known Level 2 autonomous car, but it’s not the only vehicle that is available with the technology.

Level 3: Level 3 vehicles have full autonomous functions in all driving conditions, but need to shift control back to the driver if they are unable to perform. Several of the autonomous cars currently being tested on public roads by companies such as Waymo (Google’s former driverless car project and now Alphabet Inc.’s project) feature Level 3 technology.

Level 4: Fully autonomous vehicles can operate with no intervention from the driver other than the entry of the destination. They are designed to operate under any condition. If the autonomous car systems fail, the vehicle will safely stop. They typically have redundant controls for the driver to actively take command of the car if they wish.

Level 5: Level 5 autonomous vehicles are designed from the ground up to operate entirely autonomously. While they may have redundant controls, they are not intended to be driven regularly by human drivers. Level 5 vehicles are likely still years or decades away from widespread deployment.

Click to the next slide to check out our list of the top nearly self-driving cars on the market.

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