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The term “autonomous vehicle” invokes the image of a completely independent car that drives while we’re reading or having a nap. Stop dreaming for now: Jeffrey Mervis takes a critical look at the true abilities and limitations of current autonomous vehicles – which turn out to be not so autonomous yet. The future of driving is bright, he concludes, but a good deal of work still need to be completed. getAbstract recommends you take Mervis’ test drive.

About the Author

Jeffrey Mervis has covered science policy for more than 30 years, reporting from five continents.



Experts distinguish six degrees of autonomy ranging from a human driver completing all tasks to no human driver at all. Current autonomous vehicles still require a human driver for most actions.

Many media reports on autonomous vehicles (AVs) have exaggerated the technology’s capabilities and led us to believe that human drivers will soon be a relic of the past. Politicians have followed suit and expressed great excitement for the future of transportation systems. SAE International’s experts classify vehicle autonomy using a six-level scale (0–5). On level zero, the driver does everything while the car does nothing autonomously. From levels two to four, control gradually shifts from the driver to the car while...

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