What really is an autonomous vehicle?

There is not just one level of autonomous vehicle. Instead, there are six levels of assistance, ranked from zero to five. These range from no driver assistance at all to complete automation that eliminates the need for a human driver.

Texas might not be the home of the autonomous vehicle invention or testing ground but that does not mean that most residents in the state have never heard about these cars. The rapid pace of development and talk about self-driving cars taking over American roads can sometimes be confusing. It is important for consumers to know that there is something of a scale when it comes to the autonomy referred to in vehicles.

The Society of Automotive Engineers has identified six distinct levels of vehicle autonomy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has adopted the SAE's definition.

The six autonomous driving levels

The least autonomous driving level is the level 0. However, it should be pointed out that very few vehicles on American roads today fall into this category. Level 0 vehicles include no autonomous capability at all, not even cruise control.

Moving up the ladder of autonomy, a level 1 vehicle offers some basic assistance like cruise control that most drivers are familiar with and have likely used at some point. Level 2 vehicles take a noticeable step forward by offering features that give human drivers the option of handing over some type of control to the vehicle. Other features that may be in a level 2 vehicle offer assistance to human drivers. Adaptive cruise control or lane departure warnings are two examples of features in a level 2 vehicle.

Level 3 vehicles can drive on their own with no human driver taking control. However, this is only intended for specific situations and locations. Level 3 vehicles are built so that control can be transferred from the vehicle to the human driver. A level 4 vehicle does not allow this transference and it what separates it from a level 3 vehicle.

A true, fully autonomous vehicle that is created with the intention of never having a human driver take control is a level 5 vehicle.

Low consumer trust for level 5 vehicles

The results of Deloitte's 2019 Global Automotive Consumer Study indicate a drop in the confidence of fully autonomous vehicles among American consumers. Accidents that received a lot of media attention may well contribute to the slipping trust in these cars.

Keeping Texans safe

Texas residents who are in accidents in which even level 2 vehicles may have been involved deserve to be compensated for other drivers' negligence. Talking with an attorney after these events is an important way of advocating for one's rights.