Mom, my car can drive itself!

Anyone who hears this would instantly have a crease of concern on their forehead,not just your mom. But, are we really there yet?

The DOT issued a comprehensive policy on self-driving cars.

In the document, it defines 6 levels of Automation.

Level 0 — No Automation at all

Level 1 — Driver Assistance. This simply means, cars with Cruise Control.

Cruise Control was first introduced in 1958 in a car called Imperial

Level 2 — an automated system on the vehicle can actually conduct some parts of the driving task. Tesla “Autopilot” is an example of Level 2 Automation.

Level 3 — -an automated system can both actually conduct some parts of the driving task and monitor the driving environment in some instances, but the human driver must be ready to take back control when the automated system requests; Uber’s launch of Ford Fusion vehicles in Pittsburgh last week is an example of Level 3 Automation. The vehicles are equipped with 20 cameras, 7 lasers and 3 inertial measurement units, covering 360 degrees. In fact, Uber bought self-driving truck startup Otto, last month. It also has plans to launch Volvo SUVs which will fall under Level 3.

Level 4 — -an automated system can conduct the driving task and monitor the driving environment, and the human need not take back control, but the automated system can operate only in certain environments and under certain conditions;

Attaining this level would be a major feat. I am guessing that, companies like Uber, would have remote command centers who would navigate the vehicle remotely, just like drones and would correct errors which can allow > 3 sec delay in controlling the vehicle while the vehicle would take care of decisions that require < 3 sec reaction time.

Level 5 — -the automated system can perform all driving tasks, under all conditions that a human driver could perform them.

Henri Petroski in “To engineer is Human” writes“…For all of their efforts are to one end: to make something stand that has not stood before, to reassemble Nature into something new, and above all to obviate failure in the effort.”

CMU, Stanford, MIT, UCB U of Michigan and Virginia Tech. are working hard on it.

We have a long way to go though.