ACV facts & figures
While automakers and drivers alike have dreamed of self-driving cars as far back as the 1930s, significant progress toward autonomous driving only became a reality in the last decade1. This might seem fast-paced, but autonomous driving features have been in development for decades. Most major automakers now offer at least one model with features like lane-change assistance or adaptive cruise control. As the development of driverless vehicles continues and cars inch closer to fully autonomous driving, it’s important to analyze what this means for driving and how your customers stand to benefit.
How Are Self-Driving Cars Categorized?
Manufacturers like Tesla are beginning to advertise their vehicles as fully autonomous, despite that not being quite true2. Full automation remains distant based on current technology, but there are now many driver assistance features that give vehicles much more independence than was previously possible. To classify how autonomous a car is, the industry created a system describing the presence or absence of certain features. This system ranks cars from Level 0 (completely lacking automation features) to Level 5 (full automation of all systems).
Levels 0 and 1
These basic levels are what most drivers are currently familiar with. Level 0 cars have no automated features but may have warning systems for lane departure or forward collisions, and Level 1 cars can have features like adaptive cruise control or lane-change assistance. The driver is in full control at all times.
Considered partially autonomous, these vehicles employ multiple assistance technologies simultaneously. Level 2 vehicles, such as the Cadillac CT4, often come with highway assistance features that only require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while the vehicle navigates pre-programmed highways3. At Level 2, drivers are in full control and drive most of the time, but the vehicle does a lot of the heavy lifting.
For now, Level 3 automation can mostly be found in luxury vehicles, like the BMW X7. In addition to Level 2 features, these vehicles allow the driver to take their hands off the wheel under certain conditions. This is commonly used in traffic jam assistance programs.
Levels 4 and 5
Level 4 and 5 vehicles are not yet widely available, but they are being tested and used in commercial enterprises. Some taxi services now use Level 4 vehicles, which are driverless but limited to specific areas, routes, and/or speeds. Level 5 vehicles do not currently exist, but they will be fully driverless and function in any conditions a human driver could find themselves in.
Autonomous Driving Features
Perhaps first and foremost on consumers’ minds when contemplating self-driving cars is how safe they are, what safety features they offer, and what level of safety they may ultimately achieve. This is especially true after a series of accidents and fatalities caused by self-driving cars4. These concerns may also have been exacerbated by stories of Tesla’s autopilot features spontaneously shutting off moments before a crash5.
So, are self-driving cars safe? While many drivers may not feel comfortable relinquishing control behind the wheel, the fact is that 94% of car accidents are the result of human error6. The AI employed in autonomous vehicles removes many of the elements of human error that contribute to crashes, leading to a high level of safety.
Even Level 0 features, like forward collision notices, play an important role in keeping drivers safe. As the features get more advanced in Level 1 and Level 2, they could reduce the risk of accidents due to speeding and other unsafe behaviors⁶. As the number of self-driving cars on the road increases, safety is also expected to increase because vehicle movement is more predictable.
Among those who are likely to benefit the most from autonomous vehicles and feel those benefits deeply are the elderly and disabled folks who are often unable to operate cars themselves. Even though Level 4 vehicles are not available to the general public, and Level 5 capabilities are still in development, these are the features most likely to help people who haven’t been able to drive non-automated cars.
As people age, they tend to lose visual acuity and reflex speed, which leaves many unable to drive safely. Driverless cars offer them the opportunity to regain some autonomy while not putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.
Additionally, many disabilities bar individuals from getting their driver’s licenses. Autonomous vehicles could offer them the chance to increase their mobility and independence without risk. Autonomous cars may also be useful for those who can drive but have low mobility, allowing them to get out of the car closer to their destination while the car parks itself.
Fuel Economy and Environmental
Finally, autonomous cars are likely to lead to an increase in fuel efficiency and a decrease in the environmental impact of the auto industry. Running on electricity instead of fossil fuels makes regular daily driving more efficient, and it cuts down on greenhouse gasses that come from idling cars.
With roads full of autonomous vehicles, traffic jams and accidents (often caused by human error) become less frequent, reducing fuel usage and emissions. The more advanced and prevalent these cars become, the more everyone stands to benefit.
Prepare Your Dealership for the Future of Driving
As vehicles with autonomous driving features make up more of the automotive market, dealers need to be ready to adapt. ACV Auctions makes it easy to get clear, transparent market reports and bid on used cars so you can be sure you’re investing in the cars your customers want to buy. Join today to take part in our wholesale automotive auctions and source inventory from around the country.
1. Gringer, B. History of the Autonomous Car. TitleMax. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.titlemax.com/resources/history-of-the-autonomous-car/
2. Patel, J. (23 May 2022). Cars That Are Almost Self-Driving. US News. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/advice/cars-that-are-almost-self-driving?slide=3
3. Holt, B. 10 Best Cars With Self-Driving Features for 2021. Autobytel. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.autobytel.com/car-buying-guides/features/10-best-cars-with-self-driving-features-for-2021-134290/
4. McFarland, M. (17 January 2023). Tesla-induced pileup involved driver-assist tech, government data reveals. CNN. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/17/business/tesla-8-car-crash-autopilot/index.html
5. Harrison, M (14 June 2022). Tesla Accused of Shutting Off Autopilot Moments Before Impact. Futurism. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://futurism.com/tesla-nhtsa-autopilot-report
6. Coalition for Future Mobility. Highly automated technologies, often called self-driving cars, promise a range of potential benefits. Coalition for Future Mobility. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://coalitionforfuturemobility.com/benefits-of-self-driving-vehicles/
Aug 30, 2023