This June, Audi will become the first car company to test automated vehicles on the streets of New York, including automated cars that have achieved an automation level of 3. Testing will take place in the city of Albany starting in the middle of June.
This makes Audi the first company to legally test automated vehicles on open roads in the state of New York.
This isn’t the first time Audi has been at the head of the line among autonomous vehicle manufacturers. Audi is the first company to receive an autonomous vehicle license plate in the state of Nevada, and to be allowed to test its automated vehicles in California. Audi has also set numerous track records for autonomous vehicles at numerous tracks worldwide.
What does level 3 automation mean?
Automation levels have been established by the Society of Engineers and measure how autonomous a vehicle actually is. Here is a quick breakdown of the different levels of automation:
Level 0 vehicles would give the driver warnings when they are drifting over the line or about to collide with something, but won’t actually take over the vehicle.
Level 1 vehicles include features like Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and automated parking. In these vehicles, the driver still maintains majority control of the vehicle in almost all cases. This is a common add-on feature set in modern luxury vehicles.
Level 2 vehicles are where things get a bit more interesting. The car pretty much drives itself at highway speeds, but the driver still has to maintain the ability to take control at any point. In many cases, cars with Level 2 autonomous functionality still requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.
Level 3 gives drivers a bit more freedom to take their hands off the wheel and turn their attention elsewhere, momentarily. Drivers are still required to be behind the wheel, and may be called upon to take control immediately, but in the majority of driving scenarios they can trust the vehicle to get them from point A to point B with minimal intervention.
Level 4 is what we know commonly as fully autonomous. There is still a steering wheel in the car, but the driver can turn their attention away from the road for extended periods. Cars that meet this requirement are expected to respond as well or better than their human counterparts within its designated parameters. This functionality is generally only available in limited areas, and/or specific scenarios.
Level 5 describes the ultimate self-driving vehicle. It maps routes, takes control from the beginning to the end of the journey, and doesn’t require a human driver at all. Automated taxis without steering wheels would fall into this category.
This means that the vehicles Audi will be testing in New York will be a step above any level of automation most drivers have ever experienced. These cars will have human drivers behind the wheel, but there is a good chance that they won’t be the ones doing the driving.