How autonomous vehicles are defined

My second blog post on #autonomous trucking helps to define what the transportation technology entails, levels of automation and current developments.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA); CCMTA White Paper Automated Vehicles in Canada: defines an automated vehicle as one that can be operated by “a person or be controlled without human intervention under certain conditions. Systems in cars today, such as adaptive cruise control, lane centering, automatic parallel parking, self-parking, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and collision avoidance breaking, are examples of partially automated vehicles, or automated driver assistance systems.”

In September 2016 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adopted the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) six levels of automation for on-road motor vehicles

  • Level 0 – No Automation: A human driver controls every aspect of the driving task.
  •  Level 1 – Driver Assistance: Driver assistance system controls either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment, with the driver controlling all remaining facets of the driving task.
  • Level 2 – Partial Automation: One or more driver assistance systems control(s) both steering and acceleration/deceleration, with the human driver responsible for all remaining aspects of the driving task.
  • Level 3 – Conditional Automation: The automated driving system controls all aspects of driving, with the human driver expected to respond appropriately if necessary.
  • Level 4 – High Automation: The automated driving system controls all aspects of the driving task, with the driver capable of leaving his or her seat, under certain environments and conditions.
  • Level 5 – Full Automation: Automation of all aspects of the driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver – no driver is required for a trip from origin to destination.

According to American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI); Identifying Autonomous Vehicle Technology Impacts on the Trucking Industry:, large trucks have traditionally been classified as L0 vehicles. It says safety and convenience technologies such as electronic stability control and adaptive cruise control bring a vehicle into L1 where specific functions are automated, but the human driver remains responsible for operating the vehicle. When two or more L1 systems work together (collision mitigation systems for example) the vehicle enters the L2 category.

ATRI says a current example of an L3 vehicle is the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, which can operate autonomously with close driver oversight.  In October 2016, Uber reached its first major milestone: a L4 classified truck using advanced technologies drove 120 highway miles along a specific highway route in Colorado with a trailer full of Budweiser, marking the world’s first commercial shipment by self-driving truck.

Here are some of the technologies most commonly associated with autonomous vehicles:

Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) utilizes radio frequencies to detect the position and/or movement of objects.

 LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a concept similar to radar but uses lasers to collect information about the surrounding environment.

Video Camera Systems are used to read roadway signs and other aspects of the transportation environment.

My next blog will explore the pros and cons of autonomous trucks.

I welcome your feedback and input and invite you to say hello to me on my Twitter account.

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Photo credit:

“Trucks” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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