Indiana Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2018

Publication Citation

93 Indiana Law Journal 713 (2018)


The degree to which a driverless car can function independently of a human driver depends upon its level of automation. In the 2016 Policy, NHTSA adopted the six-level measurement of automation created by SAE International, a professional association of automotive engineers. SAE created these levels to provide “common terminology for automated driving,” and to highlight the differences between semi-autonomous and fully autonomous cars. NHTSA believes that adopting these levels and SAE’s definitions thereof will provide both “clarity and consistency” in discussions about automated vehicles.

In this article, I will be focusing on Level 2 autonomous vehicles: those that are partially driverless, or “semi-autonomous” (I will be using those terms interchangeably). These vehicles, as noted above, can conduct some aspects of driving for the driver, but require constant human supervision for safe operation. As discussed at length below, this need for human supervision makes these vehicles very different than highly automated vehicles (HAVs), those that are Level 3 or higher and require only limited supervision or no supervision at all.