There is a large difference between an automated vehicle and an autonomous one, this sometimes causes confusion for people trying to understand the expected level of performance in these vehicles. For some this is still a new concept and some consumers may be confused if they are not fully aware of the options, and in some cases limitations, of their current vehicle. Different words and descriptions being used to explain what the vehicle is able to do is leading to incidents on the roads. What is important, and key to us, is that road safety remains the number one priority.
A quick explanation: an automated vehicle is one that performs “some” functions automatically for you or to support you. While a fully autonomous vehicle will perform all functions and drive for you, but we are not there yet!
The progression towards autonomous vehicles is measured on a scale. As technology is developed and improved the level of autonomy will increase and move up the scale. The scale runs from 0 to 5 to enable us, manufacturers, and Government etc to measure and categorize vehicles against each other. Currently there are no level 4 or 5 vehicles available to buy.
As such an automated vehicle will offer levels of automation from complete manual control (level 0) to Level 1, where driver assistance is offered to monitor speed and control moving through to Level 2 with more sensors, radar and monitors to assist with parking, manoeuvring etc. The higher the level the more automation but we are still not at a place today where you can remove the need for human control.
Automated controls will assist you to do things like remote parking, but we must remember the driver still has ultimate control and responsibility. When we get to autonomous vehicles, where, in a driverless car, you are simply the passenger then the car makes all the decisions for itself. This requires sensors, radars, monitors and Lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors to be installed and working to guide the car without human interaction.
The chances are you have already driven in some sort of partially automated vehicle, perhaps not as advanced as remote parking but with other features that we take for granted these days.
As technology develops the automated vehicle will become even more connected and able to communicate and interact with the other things, for example it will be able to receive current information regarding road conditions and traffic, alerting you to hazards on the road.
Fully autonomous and driverless cars will also be able to operate completely independently of humans by using artificial intelligence to get its passengers from A to B safely. Within this fast-developing market, it is natural for a road safety organisation such as IAM RoadSmart to want to ensure these vehicles drive themselves to the highest possible standard.
IAM Policy and Research Department are involved in various projects looking at the future safe delivery of autonomous and assisted driving, it’s a hotly debated topic and one we feel we can add value to. If it is to really deliver the promised benefits, then this new technology must exceed the general standard of driving on our roads and be more akin to the standards set by an advanced driver.
We have recently been working with the authors of the British Standards review of CAV (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles) safety benchmarking to develop a proposal for a “Digital Commentary Driving” technique.
Focusing in on the quality of the drive and benchmarking 'what makes a safe drive?', this has led to the writers of the report exploring the ways in which advanced drivers and riders are trained and assessed today, and teasing out the potential relevance to autonomous vehicle software design. As part of this our long-established concept of the ‘commentary drive’ has been promoted as an excellent technique to be adopted for use by autonomous cars
Our input was welcomed and included in the final document proving once again that we can still influence the future of road safety even if it becomes an autonomous one!