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The 5 levels of autonomous
Autonomous driving is categorised into five levels. The higher the level, the lower the input required by a driver.
Basic, partial driver assistance systems such as cruise control (where the car maintains a set driver-selected speed, as well as distance with an adaptive system) or parking aids (where the car steers into a space but the driver controls the braking and accelerating). The driver remains chiefly responsible for the operation of the vehicle.
Autonomous driving takes a step up here, with steering and speed controlled by one or more vehicle systems using stereo cameras, radar and sensors. It allows for brief periods of hands-free driving, though the (human) driver must be ready to resume control at short notice and is responsible for other elements of driving.
Combining more advanced sensors with the likes of laser scanning and radar, level 3 autonomous driving systems can monitor the driving environment surrounding the the vehicle and make decisions themselves without driver input. A driver can intervene - and must be able to retake control of the vehicle at any time.
Here, the driver has the option to give an autonomous vehicle full command of every aspect of driving - and doesn't need to respond to a request from the system to intervene, as the the car is equipped to adapt to changing traffic conditions and even handle potentially hazardous situations. It's even possible for the driver to have a sleep, though they must be fit to drive in case needed.
This is the holy grail of autonomous cars - where artificial intelligence assumes control for fully automated, driving with no human involvement required. The 'driver' simply become another passenger as such autonomous vehicles have no need for a steering wheel, pedals or other driving controls.
Volvo and autonomous cars
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist, for example, can take care of the vehicle's acceleration and braking from the standstill up to 130km/h.
In 2017, Volvo Cars launched a large-scale autonomous driving project in Gothenburg which allowed real people to experience self-driving cars on public roads.
The company anticipates that its first vehicles capable of unsupervised driving will be ready by 2021.