You've finished breakfast and cleaned up. A car horn honks. Your ride is here to go to work. You walk out to the vehicle, hop in and let the driver know where you need to go. The vehicle backs out of your driveway and heads you on your way to work. Only one thing, there's no driver! This is a self-driving car. An autonomous vehicle (AV).

The day will come when self-driving cars are common place. In fact the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) estimates 75% of all vehicles will be autonomous in 2040. But it won't happen overnight and it won't be a flip of the switch. Many believe the process of moving to fully autonomous vehicles will be incremental. We can look at NHTSA's system to categorize different levels of vehicle automation to understand how they anticipate these incremental changes may take place.

No automation at all. (Level 0): The driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls - brake, steering, throttle, and motive power – at all times.

Function-specific Automation (Level 1): 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

Combined Function Automation (Level 2): This level involves 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.

Limited Self-Driving Automation (Level 3): 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.

Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip.

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