As more manufacturers are switching from gas to electric, another technological innovation could be part of the future of transportation. The autonomous vehicle was once something out of science fiction, but companies like Mercedes-Benz have proven it is possible with today’s technology. This takes us to China, where a tech company called Baidu unveiled the Jidu Robo-01, an electric SUV that supposedly features Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology.
Levels of vehicle autonomy explained
Before we get too deep into the Robo-01, it is important to understand the levels of autonomy in vehicles. The Society of Automotive Engineers outlined these levels in their Levels of Driving Automation, and this classification system is the standard manufacturers use when developing autonomous vehicles. This system starts at Level 0 and reaches full autonomy at Level 5.
Levels 0 through 2 represent cars that a human must drive. A car has no autonomous features at the lowest level, Level 0. A Level 0 car could have features like lane departure warning, but the car will not adjust to get back in the lane on its own. Levels 1 and 2 add these more autonomous features like lane-following assistance. However, even a Level 2 vehicle that can have adaptive cruise control and lane-centering still require a human behind the wheel at all times.
The jump to Level 3 is when a vehicle reaches genuine autonomy, as a Level 3 vehicle uses AI to drive fully. With a Level 3 vehicle, though, a person must still be seated in the driver’s seat to take over in the event of system failure. Level 4, which the Jidu Robo-01 claims to achieve, is the level at which a vehicle no longer needs a driver, even as a backup.
Autonomous vehicles at this level will likely not even have a standard steering setup, as there will be no need for one. At Level 4, the only limitations to an autonomous vehicle are that it may be restricted in where geographically and in what weather conditions it can drive. This brings us to Level 5, which is fully autonomous and can drive anywhere in any conditions.
The Jidu Robo-01 will feature Level 4 autonomy
The public got its first look at the Jidu Robo-01 at a virtual metaverse preview, an appropriately futuristic event for a futuristic SUV. Visually, the Robo-01 is striking with angles and curves that highlight its high-tech design. Despite supposedly being a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, it does still have a steering wheel, but this can be collapsed when not in use.
Carscoops reports that if the Jidu Robo-01 can achieve its intended Level 4 autonomy, it will be the first vehicle to hit this mark. It will feature Baidu’s DuerOS artificial intelligence technology.
Despite the ambitions of Robo-01, there are still questions about its practicality. Until seeing the SUV in action, it is hard to know if it is truly capable of the level of autonomy that Baidu claims. Additionally, the Robo-01 is priced at roughly $30,000, suspiciously low considering the technology it intends to offer.
Mercedes has the first certified Level 3 autonomous vehicle
We’ll have to wait and see if the Jidu Robo-01 reaches its Level 4 autonomy goal, but for now, the closest thing on the road is the Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot system. Motor Trend states that this optional package can be added to Mercedes S-Class and EQS vehicles, and when Drive Pilot is active, the car is ultimately driving itself.
At Level 3, Mercedes vehicles with Drive Pilot require a human to still be seated behind the wheel. Drive Pilot can only take over when certain conditions are met, and if these conditions change, the car will require that the human driver resume control.