Artificial Intelligence in Electric Vehicles and Levels of Their Autonomy

Electric vehicle manufacturers are increasingly discussing autopilot systems, but we have yet to see fully autonomous models

Mykola (Nick) Hrytsaienko
August 2, 2023

Artificial intelligence, in its various manifestations, is a significant trend in the modern tech industry and is confidently changing various spheres of business and everyday life. There's no wonder it's created a modern gold rush. It was also the main focus of discussions at the Collision 2023 conference.

Artificial intelligence is actively evolving within the context of modern vehicles. It's not as in demand in traditional internal combustion engine cars, but electric vehicle manufacturers use it to implement autopilot features in one form or another.

At the Collision 2023 conference, Ilya Peskov, CEO of Focus21, spoke with Andrew Genovese from Project Arrow's ACE Engineering & Operations Support. They discussed the first electric vehicle fully manufactured in Canada, now appearing at exhibits worldwide. It also utilizes AI.

Artificial intelligence in Project Arrow is required to achieve Level 3 autonomy. This is not full autopilot yet, but it provides significant driver assistance during vehicle operation. There are six levels of such autonomy, and we'll discuss these further in this text.

The levels of autonomous driving for any modern vehicles are defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. From time to time, the SAE makes minor adjustments to its classification, but its key principles remain unchanged.

Level 0 (No Driving Automation)

Most vehicles on the roads are not equipped with autonomous systems | Source: Ferrovial

Most vehicles on the roads in North America and around the world today have Level 0 driving autonomy. They are not equipped with driver assistance systems, so the person behind the wheel must manually control the direction of their vehicle.

The only driver assistance system that can be used in this case is emergency braking. It doesn't relate to automatic direction changes, so it's not considered a tool within the category of vehicle autonomy.

It's also important to understand that both automatic and manual transmissions can be used in this case. Like the emergency braking system, the type of transmission is not a factor that increases or decreases the level of vehicle autonomy.

Level 1 (Driver Assistance)

Most vehicles on the roads are not equipped with autonomous systems | Source: Ferrovial

This level of autonomy implies the presence of the lowest level of driving automation. They can alert the driver if they have left their lane. Moreover, the vehicle can also maintain a safe distance from other road users ahead.

In this case, the driver must manually control the direction of movement and the braking process. However, a cruise control system can maintain a set speed and, if necessary, accelerate the vehicle to a driver-set value.

Many modern cars are already at Level 1 of autonomous driving. Interestingly, this applies not only to models in the upper price segment but also to more mainstream vehicles, which are systematically filling the roads of Canada in particular and all of North America in general.

Level 2 (Partial Driving Automation)

Tesla electric vehicles, equipped with an autopilot system, belong to this level of autonomy | Source: EV Database

Most modern electric cars are at about this level today. Despite different opinions discussed in the automotive industry, even systems like Tesla Autopilot and Cadillac Super Cruise are still classified at this level of vehicle autonomy.

In this case, vehicles can independently accelerate and decelerate without driver intervention. However, the driver should always keep their hands on the wheel and control the safe movement of the electric car they are driving at any given time.

It might seem that Level 2 is very close to full autopilot. Therefore, some drivers neglect safe driving rules because they believe the vehicle can do everything for them. But there's still a long way to go for full autonomy in this scenario.

Level 3 (Conditional Driving Automation)

It is anticipated that the Canadian Project Arrow will conform to this level of autonomy | Source: Electric Autonomy

According to the latest updates in vehicle classification introduced in 2021, real autonomy only starts at Level 3. In this case, the AI-enabled electric vehicle should independently analyze the surrounding world.

The driver must still be ready to take control of the vehicle at the first request of the onboard system, but they don't need to constantly pay attention to the road. Therefore, the driver still won't be able to sleep or work on a computer, but they also won't need to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

The creators of Project Arrow, the first electric car that is fully assembled in Canada, assure that it should meet this level of autonomy. However, the legislation of most countries doesn't yet include regulatory acts for governing such vehicles.

Level 4 (High Driving Automation)

This level of autonomy is expected to be used in Google Waymo vehicles | Source: WIRED

Vehicles of this category are autonomous cars that don't require a driver behind the wheel for transportation. Level 4 includes vehicles that can move on the roads entirely independently without the need for periodic human control.

However, it's important to understand that at this level, we're talking only about special road sections that have been checked and additionally equipped. Moreover, such sections can only be located in regions where current legislation and other regulatory rules of specific countries allow it.

To move outside these designated areas and not suffer from any geographical restrictions, such vehicles need a driver. By the way, the Google Waymo project precisely implies autopilot technology that corresponds to this level of autonomy.

Level 5 (Full Driving Automation)

At this level of autonomy, manual control by the driver is usually not provided at all | Electrek

Truly autonomous vehicles can be considered only those of Level 5. They do not even provide for temporary driver participation. Moreover, in such electric vehicles, the presence of a driver's seat, steering wheel, and other attributes of manual control of motion may not be provided at all.

The idea is that a passenger just needs to get into the vehicle and indicate the destination. The electric vehicle will handle everything else. No limitations on the area of movement should apply at all. The only limitation will be the distance that can be traveled on a single charge.

However, it is important to understand that neither technology, nor global legislation, nor the moral state of the majority of potential users have grown to this level of autonomy today. For now, such vehicles can only be seen at auto shows.

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