Level-Setting: Why Drivers Still Don’t Understand Self-Driving

American car and truck owners have shaky knowledge of what constitutes a fully autonomous vehicle (AV), says the 2021 J.D. Power Mobility Confidence Index (MCI), released November 30. In the survey, only 37% of respondents correctly identified Levels 4 and 5 (based on SAE definitions) as referring to fully automated self-driving. In fact, more than half (55%) pointed to descriptions that are actually aligned with more modest driver-assist technology…

Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon professor who has collaborated with General Motors and others on autonomous technology, said he was “not surprised” by the numbers in the survey. “Since AVs are not being sold right now, it’s not shocking that people don’t know what the levels mean,” he said.

Rajkumar added that the enthusiastic marketing of Level 2 vehicles from companies such as Cadillac and Tesla can also create false impressions. “Tesla’s Full Self-Driving [FSD] system is nowhere near full autonomy,” he said. “With some companies, the information on what the systems can actually do is in the fine print.”