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NHTSA Car Automation Level scale

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) came in 2013 with proposals for a car Automation scale, depending on whether the car needs human assistance or not (not too long time ago, it was the opposite: car helping humans)

The proposed scale is:

  • Level 0 – No-Automation: The driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls – brake, steering, throttle, and motive power – at all times.
  • Level 1 – Function-specific Automation: Automation at this level involves one or more specific control functions. Examples include electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes, where the vehicle automatically assists with braking to enable the driver to regain control of the vehicle or stop faster than possible by acting alone.
  • Level 2 – Combined Function Automation: This level involves the automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison to relieve the driver of control of those functions. An example of combined functions enabling a Level 2 system is adaptive cruise control in combination with lane centering.
  • Level 3 – Limited Self-Driving Automation: Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control but with sufficiently comfortable transition time.

The so-called Google Car falls into this category.

So as the latest Freightliner Inspiration Truck from Daimler: more information

Another car that you know? (comment on the right)

  • Level 4 – Full Self-Driving Automation: The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.

Will next Google Car version or Uber self-driving car (project only recently announced) be on Level 4 ?

Another car that you know? (comment on the right)


The NHTSA has now issued a 6-degree scale, to reflect more general vehicle automation features rather than focusing on driving only. Read more on the NHTSA site.

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