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The term the new normal became part of our lexicon in 2020, mostly because of the realities of COVID-19. Regardless of whether we had to work remotely, continue essential in-person work with extra safety precautions, or self-isolate, human beings are remarkably adaptable.

The same can be said for how we’ve adapted to automation becoming part of our daily lives. No longer the stuff of science fiction, we now have artificial intelligence at our disposal, capable of learning our preferences and changing to customize our experiences. The Internet of Things (IoT) is an excellent example of this. Its power lies in connecting billions of devices and the ability to fortify them with sensors. Real-time data is processed at lightning speed without the need for human interaction. In the case of an automobile, this could be life-saving.

There are multiple levels of vehicle autonomy. The vehicles of the past were at level 0, meaning manually controlled. Level 1 introduced the lowest level of automation with a limited choice of automated driver assistance. Examples were power steering and cruise control. Level 2 brought about advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) with remarkable life-saving features, such as pedestrian detection/avoidance, traffic sign recognition, auto emergency braking, blind-spot, and lane change detection. This level still requires a human presence in the driver’s seat, and the system can be overridden at any time. 

Level 3 is where vehicles begin to make more intelligent decisions, such as environmental detection, where the car makes informed decisions based on free space, enabling it to accelerate past slow-moving vehicles. Human override is still part of its programming, making it a human-AI collaboration. 

Level 4 automation is where AI makes leaps ahead of its predecessors. A level 4 AI-powered vehicle has the ability to intervene if the driver is unable to control the car or if there is mechanical failure. Level 4 cars do not necessarily require human interaction, although there is an override function. Level 5 vehicles do not require any human assistance. They incorporate dynamic driving task (DDT), which is defined as all real-time tactical and operational functions that are needed to operate a vehicle in traffic. Level 5 cars do not have steering wheels or pedals for acceleration or braking.