There are five levels of self-driving cars that will eventually be available. It may come as a surprise that self-driving equipment may be available on used cars. Understanding current self-driving equipment and that which still needs development can help you understand the future of autonomous vehicles.
Level 0: No Autonomy
Manufacturers made early cars with no driver assistance features. Therefore, the driver had to worry about controlling every function of their vehicle, such as steering, speed and braking.
Level 1: Driver Assistance
The driver remains in complete control of every system on the vehicle, but the manufacturer has added some features to make that job more manageable. Some features include:
Since the introduction of the 1956 Buick Centurion, manufacturers have made vehicles with rearview cameras. Since May 2018, these cameras have been mandatory on every new car in the United States.
Manufacturers equip some vehicles with blind-spot monitoring. The first vehicle to have blind-spot monitoring was the Ford GT90. Volvo, which was owned by Ford, was the first company to offer consumers blind-spot monitoring. While this vehicle was only a concept car, Ford and other manufacturers soon started including it on most vehicles.
Another example of driver assistance technology built into vehicles is cruise control. Chrysler first offered cruise control to consumers on their 1958 Chrysler Imperials, New Yorkers and Windsors. Soon, every car manufacturer followed with their version.
The first vehicle to have a lane-departure warning was the 2004 Infiniti FX. Early cars with this feature had cameras built into the dashboard that read the lines on the road ahead and used an audible beep to warn drivers when they were leaving their lane.
The first car with a forward-collision warning system was the Cadillac Cyclone XP-74 Concept that debuted at the inaugural Daytona 500 on February 1, 1959. The system relied on a radar system to alert drivers when they were getting too close to something. Car builders deemed the system too costly to include on consumer automobiles, so it was not until Hughes Research Laboratories and Delco Electronics debuted their system in 1995 that this feature became standard equipment on most vehicles.
Cars equipped with collision-warning systems send an alert to the driver when the vehicle is in danger of being hit. There are different types of designs, including reverse, forward collision and cross-traffic. Other vehicles offer pedestrian detection and parking obstruction detection.
Automatic High Beams
If you have ever forgotten that your high beams were on at night, then this feature is for you. It automatically turns off your high-beam headlights when you are around other cars.
Driver monitoring systems use sensors and other clues to determine when a driver is getting drowsy. Then, it sends an alarm.
Level 2: Partial Automation
The second level of autonomous vehicles is called partial automation. These cars can automatically perform functions, but humans must be prepared to take back control at any moment.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive cruise control maintains a prescribed distance between the car and the one in front of it. Adaptive cruise control can bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Different manufacturers call this feature by various names, including adaptive cruise control, smart cruise control, intelligent cruise control, adaptive cruise control with queue assist, dynamic radar cruise control, DISTRONIC Plus and traffic-aware cruise control.
Vehicles with adaptive cruise control include:
• 2019 Kia Soul with Primo package
• 2018 Mazda 3
• 2018 Hyundai Sonata with Technology Package
• 2018 Toyota RAV4 with Safety Sense P suite of Technology
• 2018 Honda Accord
Lane-keeping assistance helps drivers keep centered in their lanes. These cars may take control of the vehicle within the driving lane, but the driver can override the technology. Manufacturers call this feature by different names, including Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Assist, Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Keep Assist and LaneSense Lane Departure Warning Plus.
Vehicles with lane-keeping assets include:
• 2018 Acura TLX
• 2018 BMW 540i xDrive
• 2018 Chevrolet Traverse
• 2019 Ford Edge
• 2019 Honda Insight
Automatic Emergency Braking
Vehicles equipped with forward automatic emergency braking automatically detect items in front of your car and apply the brakes when needed. This can help avoid or lessen the impact of a crash. Vehicles may also come with reverse automatic emergency braking, which automatically stops or slows down a vehicle going in reverse to prevent an accident. Vehicles may have both systems.
Possible choices with this option include:
• 2020 Honda Odyssey
• 2020 Volkswagen GTI
• 2020 Mazda CX-5
• 2020 Kia Optima
• 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid
You can find vehicles with semi-autonomous parking assist. These vehicles control the steering wheel while you control the gas, brakes and other items.
Other vehicles take it a step further by controlling all systems of the car. These vehicles are often capable of parking themselves.
There are even vehicles that are capable of parking themselves while you are nearby.
If you want a vehicle with parking assist, consider the:
• 2018 Audi A8
• 2018 Ford Expedition
• 2019 Volvo XC40
• 2018 Ford Focus
• 2018 Volkswagen Golf Estate
Drivers who find it more challenging to see to drive at night may want to consider a car equipped with night vision. This system projects enhanced images of the road on a heads-up display, making it easier to see what is happening.
Vehicles with this option include:
• 2018 Audi A6
• 2019 Volkswagen Touareg
• 2014 Mercedes Benz S-Class
• 2013 Lexus GS
Level 3: Conditional Automation
The driver does not have to monitor the environment with level 3 cars. They must perform all the driving tasks. Designers equip these cars to make all driving decisions. As of 2021, this level is not currently available in the United States, but car manufacturers are working hard towards achieving it.
Audi Traffic Jam Pilot
While Audi has announced that they are no longer going to produce vehicles with Traffic Jam Pilot, looking at this system’s features provides an overview of what the near future may hold. Audi designed the system to operate only at speeds under 37 miles per hour on a divided highway.
These vehicles have the ability to:
• Steer the vehicle
• Stop the vehicle
• Pass another vehicle
• Tell if the human was awake
• Find parking spaces
• Parallel or perpendicular park
• Ease bumps
Level 4: High Automation
These cars do not require human intervention. They are capable of complexly driving themselves and can self-diagnose if something goes wrong. Some companies, like NAVYA, Waymo and Magna, are running these cars in various countries as taxis.
Level 5: Fully Autonomous
The top-level fully autonomous cars will not have any equipment, such as steering wheels or brake and gas pedals, for humans to use. These vehicles will do everything by themselves.
As you can see, cars have come a long way with the assistance features that they offer drivers. If you’re looking at used cars, chances are, you’ll be able to find a vehicle that has some of these great features.