We already have vehicles on the consumer market that basically drive themselves but require a human to sit in the driver’s seat. And while that’s neat, the real question seems to be: Just how long will it take before we have completely driverless cars?


Let’s take a peek at the ongoing development of self-driving cars and when they’re likely to become mainstream vehicles.


Levels of Vehicle Automation in 2022

There are five escalating “levels” of driverless cars. In 2022, we, as consumers, have access to some of them, while others are only available in ridesharing applications. The highest levels of automated vehicles are still in development and undergoing testing. Here’s what those levels look like.


Level 1: Driver Assistance

Vehicles with a single automated assistance system, such as adaptive cruise control, fall into this category. The driver must remain aware and continue to control the majority of the vehicle's functions.


Level 2: Partial Automation

These vehicles have multiple automated systems and can handle acceleration, braking, and steering in specific driving modes. However, the driver must continually monitor surroundings and take total control of the vehicle when necessary.


If your vehicle has Level 1 or 2 automation, check out what you need to know about ADAS recalibration because you may need it periodically to keep your system running properly.


Level 3: Conditional Automation

These vehicles can monitor their surroundings and even switch lanes autonomously. They can also control braking and acceleration in certain instances. The driver must be prepared to take total control of the vehicle when necessary.


Level 4: High-level Automation

These vehicles feature a level of automation similar to level 3 vehicles but can operate in self-driving mode. Level 4 vehicles can also autonomously intervene in certain circumstances when things go wrong. The driver can manually override when necessary or as desired. 


Level 5: Full Automation

These vehicles do not require any human attention whatsoever, aside from the setting of a destination. They are autonomously capable of anything and everything a human driver can do and won’t require a steering wheel or braking/acceleration pedals. However, these features will likely be available, as will manual override systems. 


Which Automated Vehicles Are Available in 2022?

Presently, automated vehicles in Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 exist on the market. However, level four vehicles are only available in the ridesharing market — as in robotaxis like Waymo in Arizona — and are still being developed and tested.


A couple of Level 3 vehicles have recently been unveiled and introduced to the consumer market in Europe and Asia but haven’t yet hit the U.S. market. Mercedes and Audi are pioneering these vehicles in Europe, but U.S. safety regulations don’t allow them to be sold in the states quite yet.


Tesla, Honda, Nissan, and Cadillac are also developing Level 3 automated systems for their upcoming vehicle models. 


How Close Are We to Fully Driverless Cars?

If we look at the big picture, not too far off. Presently, there are no fully driverless vehicles for sale anywhere in the world. However, experts predict that Level 3 vehicles may become more mainstream within the next five years. There are still many challenges to tackle before Level 4 and 5 vehicles will be available on the consumer market.


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