As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

What Are The Different Levels Of Driving Autonomy?

As auto manufacturers race against one another to release self driving vehicles, motorists will soon be presented with all types of autonomous driving solutions. With so many options likely to be available, as well as some current models that already claim to offer self driving functionality, motorists should be aware of the technology’s various iterations – namely, the five levels of autonomy.



Level Zero: This is what we’ve been accustom to in vehicles right up until today. These vehicles are dependent upon full driver input, with the exception of automatic safety features which are designed to prevent or mitigate the impact of an accident.There is no degree of automation which goes into the driving process.


Levels One and Two: This next band of technology is a step up from complete dependence on drivers, to a system where support is offered to manouevere and adjust the speed of the vehicle. The important feature to distinguish this stage is that it is only support which is offered, as the driver will still need to maintain a connection with the car. In a way, this adds a degree of control and surety when changing lanes and activating cruise control, since prompts will be made to the driver to maintain their focus and thus keep the car operational.


Level Three: This is the threshold at which point the vehicle becomes responsible for controlling the driving functionality, as well as responding to the driving environment. This is also the level at which point motorists may begin to disengage from the vehicle without it shutting down. Motorists may still be required to respond to unforessen events or directional queries, however, by and large the vehicle can navigate more complex driving conditions. A number of car manufacturers are currently operating at this level, even though forecasts had the industry meeting this level much sooner. Tesla is among those currently very active in this space as a frontrunner.



Level Four: The car is now equipped to fully navigate itself and also react as necessary in the event of an emergency. Any human dependence or interaction is limited specifically to the activation process when turning on the system upon ignition, and in an advisory capacity if required for navigation input (e.g. route selection) – rather than requests. There are only a couple of players currently operating at this level, and that includes heavyweights Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, and another being Uber.


Level Five: The truly driverless vehicle. With level 5 capacity, a vehicle is capable of transporting its occupants without the need for a driver to be present. Similarly, the car may also be used without occupants or a driver as a remote vehicle to collect a person, or instead deliver an item to a specified address.


Importantly, the development in this space is taking place overseas, where the infrastructure and testing is in a better position to support development. Closer to home, not only do we need to see regulatory change, but also a sizeable shift in motorists behaviours. Until then, it’s a long waiting game for new car buyers hoping to take up a fully-autonomous vehicle.