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Understanding autonomous vehicles

While most residents in Kentucky may have yet to share the road with a fully autonomous vehicle, they should be aware that such a day will come. However, it is also important to understand that there is not just one type of autonomous car. Vehicle automation actually comes in six different levels. 

As explained by TrueCar, the lowest level is 0 and it involves no automation but level 1 adds in driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control, still requiring the human to be fully in control of the vehicle at all times. Level 2 vehicles are called partially automated as they can operate on their own but a human is required to be in the driver's seat with their hands on the wheel at all times.

Level 3 vehicles are similar to level 2 vehicles except that a driver does not need to keep their hands on the wheel. These vehicles can only be driven autonomously in select environments. The driver, however, does need to be ready and able to take control of the vehicle at any time. Level 4 vehicles usher in high automation but still include steering wheels and pedals for human control if and when warranted. The fully autonomous vehicle without any controls for a human to use is a level 5 vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlines what it calls the five eras of automobile safety. The time between 2016 and 2025 is the fourth of those and includes vehicles with features like self parking, lane keeping assistance and other partially automated features designed to improve safety.


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