J3016_201609 Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles



Issuing Committee
This Recommended Practice provides a taxonomy for motor vehicle driving automation systems that perform part or all of the dynamic driving task (DDT) on a sustained basis and that range in level from no driving automation (level 0) to full driving automation (level 5). It provides detailed definitions for these six levels of driving automation in the context of motor vehicles (hereafter also referred to as “vehicle” or “vehicles”) and their operation on roadways. These level definitions, along with additional supporting terms and definitions provided herein, can be used to describe the full range of driving automation features equipped on motor vehicles in a functionally consistent and coherent manner. “On-road” refers to publicly accessible roadways (including parking areas and private campuses that permit public access) that collectively serve users of vehicles of all classes and driving automation levels (including no driving automation), as well as motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, and pedestrians.
The levels apply to the driving automation feature(s) that are engaged in any given instance of on-road operation of an equipped vehicle. As such, although a given vehicle may be equipped with a driving automation system that is capable of delivering multiple driving automation features that perform at different levels, the level of driving automation exhibited in any given instance is determined by the feature(s) that are engaged.
This document also refers to three primary actors in driving: the (human) driver, the driving automation system, and other vehicle systems and components. These other vehicle systems (or the vehicle in general terms) do not include the driving automation system in this model, even though as a practical matter a driving automation system may actually share hardware and software components with other vehicle systems, such as a processing module(s) or operating code.
The levels of driving automation are defined by reference to the specific role played by each of the three primary actors in performance of the DDT. “Role” in this context refers to the expected role of a given primary actor, based on the design of the driving automation system in question and not necessarily to the actual performance of a given primary actor. For example, a driver who fails to monitor the roadway during engagement of a level 1 adaptive cruise control (ACC) system still has the role of driver, even while s/he is neglecting it.
Active safety systems, such as electronic stability control and automated emergency braking, and certain types of driver assistance systems, such as lane keeping assistance, are excluded from the scope of this driving automation taxonomy because they do not perform part or all of the DDT on a sustained basis and, rather, merely provide momentary intervention during potentially hazardous situations. Due to the momentary nature of the actions of active safety systems, their intervention does not change or eliminate the role of the driver in performing part or all of the DDT, and thus are not considered to be driving automation.
It should, however, be noted that crash avoidance features, including intervention-type active safety systems, may be included in vehicles equipped with driving automation systems at any level. For ADS-equipped vehicles (i.e., levels 3-5) that perform the complete DDT, crash avoidance capability is part of ADS functionality.
This Recommended Practice provides a taxonomy describing the full range of levels of driving automation in on-road motor vehicles and includes functional definitions for advanced levels of driving automation and related terms and definitions. This Recommended Practice does not provide specifications, or otherwise impose requirements on, driving automation systems. Standardizing levels of driving automation and supporting terms serves several purposes, including:
  • Clarifying the role of the (human) driver, if any, during driving automation system engagement.
  • Answering questions of scope when it comes to developing laws, policies, regulations, and standards.
  • Providing a useful framework for driving automation specifications and technical requirements.
  • Providing clarity and stability in communications on the topic of driving automation, as well as a useful short-hand that saves considerable time and effort.
This document has been developed according to the following guiding principles, namely, it should:
  • Be descriptive and informative rather than normative.
  • Provide functional definitions.
  • Be consistent with current industry practice.
  • Be consistent with prior art to the extent practicable.
  • Be useful across disciplines, including engineering, law, media, public discourse.
  • Be clear and cogent and, as such, it should avoid or define ambiguous terms.
The current revision contains updates that reflect lessons learned from various stakeholder discussions, as well as from research projects conducted in Europe and the United States by the AdaptIVe Consortium and by the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP) Automated Vehicle Research (AVR) Consortium, respectively.
These revisions, while substantial, preserve the original SAE J3016:JAN2014 level names, numbers, and functional distinctions, as well as the supporting terms. However, this version of J3016:
  • Clarifies and rationalizes taxonomical differentiator(s) for lower levels (levels 0-2).
  • Clarifies the scope of the J3016 driving automation taxonomy (i.e., explains to what it does and does not apply).
  • Modifies existing, and adds new, supporting terms and definitions.
  • Adds more rationale, examples, and explanatory text throughout.
Italicized terms used in this Recommended Practice are also defined herein.
Meta TagsDetails
SAE International Recommended Practice, Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles, SAE Standard J3016_201609, Revised September 2016, Issued January 2014, https://doi.org/10.4271/J3016_201609.
Additional Details
Sep 30, 2016
Product Code
Content Type
Recommended Practice