Classification on Autonomous Cars

When thinking about autonomous cars people often speculate as to what the term actually means. There are actually many different technologies involved and there are bound to be many more introduced in the near future.

For now, the classification of self-driving cars and other types of automated vehicles can be defined in about five stages.

Stage One

Stage 1 is where there is some assistance offered to the driver, but the driver never relinquishes control of the vehicle in any way. This stage exists in some of the cars today in the form of braking assistance or steering control based on environmental information. Systems like Mobileye, for example, look for environmental clues around the vehicle and send a message to the on-board computer to steer or stop the vehicle if need be.

Stage Two

Stage 2 is called partial automation. In this stage, the car has the ability to steer, accelerate, and brake, but is still reliant on driver decision making and input of other types.

Stage Three

Stage 3, known as conditional automation is similar to Tesla’s current 2017 models where a driver can activate an autonomous mode while driving, but the car will still require the driver to perform certain tasks. At this stage, the level of autonomy is more like an advanced cruise control with lane changing abilities and collision avoidance technology.

Stage Four

Stage 4 is a step away from full autonomy, which means that the car can handle most driving tasks. The car can go where you tell it to go, deal with road conditions, and negotiate complex environments. These cars still have a steering wheel and pedals for the driver to take control of the vehicle should the need arise.

Stage Five

The 5th and final level is full autonomy. These cars have no driver inputs or dependability on user interaction. The car takes care of the entire driving process as long as it knows where to go.


While currently there are many classifications and levels of the automated car, estimates from market leaders suggest that within the next twenty or thirty years most, if not all, new cars will be completely automated. It is hard to tell if that is, in fact, the case, but the whole idea of transportation as we know it going through such a drastic change is quite exciting and something we should all look forward to.