A robot inside a car's brain wonders about autonomous driving levels

What do the different autonomous driving levels mean?

Though more attention has recently been focused on electric vehicles as the cutting-edge technology in the automotive sphere, autonomous driving capabilities have been continuously progressing in their own right. While initial claims that self-driving cars would be available for public use by 2020 did not come to fruition, there have still been some pretty sweet advances in driver-assists and other autonomous driving technology, much of which is available on top-tier new vehicles such as those provided by Mercedes-Benz.

Customers doing research on autonomous driving technology sometimes come across different “level” designations for vehicles’ ability to drive themselves. As a result, a question we at Mercedes-Benz of Gilbert sometimes receive is: what do the different self-driving car levels refer to?

Self-Driving Car Level Classification Definitions

In total, there are six different levels in the autonomous-driving classification system. These levels range from 0 to 5.

  • Level 0: No autonomous or self-driving controls at all. This is the category most vehicles fell into until recent years.

  • Level 1: Has some systems on hand in which control is shared between the car and driver; this is the most common level among new vehicles today. Examples include safety and driver-assist features, such as adaptive cruise control and park assist. You’ll find many driver assists included on the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

  • Level 2: Internal systems can take care of all aspects of driving (steering, acceleration, and braking) in certain highly specific situations. Examples would be vehicles that can drive themselves in low-speed traffic congestion. At this level, the driver is still required to keep their hands on the steering wheel and stay alert to road conditions, ready to intervene if any part of the system fails.

  • Level 3: Truly autonomous. The driver can sit back and relax at this level, taking their hands off the steering wheel and doing other activities. However, the driver still cannot fall asleep, as they must be on hand to intervene if necessary. We would welcome the opportunity to enjoy some feature films on the massive MBUX Hyperscreen.

  • Level 4: Drivers can go to sleep. At this level, the car takes care of everything to a degree that the driver shouldn’t have to step in. However, this mode is restricted in that it can only be activated in specific conditions, such as in specified areas or traffic jams.

  • Level 5: No human interaction is required at all. This is the level in which a vehicle is considered fully autonomous.