Skip to main content
Automated Driving 5 min read

What are the six levels of autonomous driving?

A man driving a car in traffic.

Forgetting about the responsibility of driving is a nice thought, but how close are we really to cars that can make all the decisions for us?

Autonomous driving (AD) was one of the most talked about topics in the automotive industry in 2023. 

A technological capability that allows a vehicle to navigate and execute entire journeys without any human input, self-driving features rely on a complex system of sensors, algorithms, machine learning and location data to understand the surrounding environment and make decisions to safely reach destinations. 

With a promise of a safer, more convenient and comfortable future of mobility, autonomous driving is steadily making advancements in the automotive world. But it is also complicated.

Location Forecast 2024 Automated Driving

Deciphering AD

In the race to design vehicles that are fully independent of drivers, the automotive industry looks to the Society of Automotive Engineers' (SAE) system of categorization that defines the six levels of automated driving. This industry-accepted standard offers a clear structure that everyone from manufacturers and regulators to consumers can understand and use and serve to categorize a vehicle's autonomy.

In short, levels of autonomous driving range from Level 0 where the driver controls all aspects of the vehicle to Level 5 where the vehicle is entirely self-driving under all conditions. These levels represent critical stages in the development of autonomous driving technology and are used as a guide for regulations, setting expectations and allowing incremental advancements.

So what are the six SAE Levels of Driving Automation™?

Level 0: No Automation

At Level 0, there is no form of automation. The driver is responsible for all aspects of the driving task, including steering, braking, accelerating and monitoring the road environment. At this level, the responsibility for controlling the vehicle and responding to events lies solely with the driver.

Level 1: Driver Assistance

Level 1 introduces basic automation features into the vehicle. These features can assist the driver with either steering or acceleration/deceleration, but not both simultaneously. For instance, adaptive cruise control can help maintain a consistent speed and distance from the vehicle ahead, while parking assistance can help maneuver the vehicle into a parking spot, but the driver remains in control of most functions and must be ready to fully take over at any moment.
Winning back public trust in automated driving

Level 2: Partial Automation

At Level 2, the vehicle can control both steering and acceleration/deceleration in certain scenarios. This level includes systems like advanced cruise control and lane centering, which can help make driving easier, especially on highways. 

The driver must remain alert and ready to intervene whenever necessary, as these systems are not designed to respond to all driving situations or events.

Level 3: Conditional Automation

Level 3 represents a significant leap forward in automation. At this level, the vehicle can manage all critical driving tasks under certain conditions, but the driver must be ready to resume control when the system requests. 

This level introduces the concept of environmental detection, where the vehicle can monitor the environment and make decisions based on its understanding.



Level 4: High Automation

At Level 4, the vehicle can perform all driving tasks under certain conditions without any input from the driver. If something goes wrong or the system fails, the vehicle is capable of handling the situation thanks to the ability to bring itself to a safe stop when necessary. 

This level of automation allows the vehicle to operate autonomously in many situations, but there may still be some conditions or scenarios that the system cannot handle.

Level 5: Full Automation

Level 5 represents the pinnacle of autonomous driving technology. At this level, the vehicle is capable of performing all driving tasks, under all conditions that a human driver could handle. No human intervention is required at any stage. The vehicle can go anywhere, at any time, in any conditions, completely autonomously.


Two cars drive along a windy mountain road.

Safety, sustainability and location technology

Innovation in autonomous driving is strongly connected to location technology. Accurate location data plays a crucial role in the advancement of automated driving systems, allowing autonomous vehicles to understand their environment, plan routes and make safe, efficient decisions

Location intelligence also promotes safety, using advanced maps such as HD (high-definition) maps that support vehicle manufacturers' progress through the six SAE Levels of Driving Automation™ without putting drivers, passengers or anyone nearby at risk. 

Autonomous driving also holds significant promise for sustainability. By optimizing routes, reducing congestion and facilitating shared mobility, autonomous vehicles could significantly reduce carbon emissions and make driving not only safer and more convenient but also greener.

While the road toward fully autonomous driving involves numerous technical, regulatory and societal challenges, the journey to driverless driving is definitely keeping its momentum and we are excited to follow its development in 2024.

Maja Stefanovic

Maja Stefanovic

Have your say

Sign up for our newsletter

Why sign up:

  • Latest offers and discounts
  • Tailored content delivered weekly
  • Exclusive events
  • One click to unsubscribe