NJM Blog

What Are Autonomous Vehicles?

What Are Autonomous Vehicles?

Autonomous: undertaken or carried on without outside control

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) operate without needing input from a driver. AVs are programmed to safely travel based on feedback from sensors, operators, and navigation systems.

Common examples of AV technologies are an airplane’s autopilot system and so–called self–driving cars. Although fully driverless vehicles are some time away, some autonomous features like lane assistance are already available.

There are five levels of autonomous vehicles:

  • Level 0: A human performs every driving function.

  • Level 1: Some automatic systems are available, but a human performs most driving functions. Examples include cruise control and automatic braking.

  • Level 2: A human must perform some driving functions, but two or more automated functions are available. Examples include acceleration and steering.

  • Level 3: The vehicle can perform most driving functions. A human driver must respond when alerted.

  • Level 4: The vehicle can perform all driving functions, but only in specific scenarios.

  • Level 5: The vehicle requires no input from a human operator to safely navigate all driving scenarios.

Are AVs the future?

Many companies are considering the impact of AVs on their operations. Your industry might one day benefit from autonomous technology for one or more of the following uses:

  • Advanced driver-assistance systems
    Also known as ADAS, this technology can improve driving safety. Examples include adaptive cruise control and automatic braking or steering.

  • Warehouse automation
    Self-driving vehicles can transport items around a warehouse based on programmed instructions.

  • Shipping
    Commercial trucking operations and local delivery vehicles may one day take to the streets without drivers.

  • Public transportation
    Robo–taxis and self-driving buses could revolutionize how people commute around airports and cities. McKinsey predicts that self–driving shuttles could help reduce congestion of private passenger vehicles by up to 20% in large cities like Los Angeles.

Yes, but…

There are some challenges to AV adoption.

  • The technology is not fully developed, and only certain states allow companies to test AVs on congested roads due to the risk of a crash.

  • Until Level 5 autonomy is possible, AVs require a human operator to remain alert and in control while driving. Manufacturers must be careful to design Level 3 and 4 AVs so human drivers don’t grow complacent.

  • Cities will need to invest in AV–friendly infrastructure to encourage shared mobility over private ownership. Pedestrian–friendly neighborhoods may help improve safety in an area where AVs currently struggle: predicting the actions of people.

  • If AVs are programmed to prioritize speed and convenience, they may not be as safe as many hope, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

  • AVs introduce new legal questions for businesses: If an auto accident involves an AV, is the vehicle owner, driver, programmer, or manufacturer at fault? The answer is likely to be complex and develop over time through legislation, regulation, and litigation.

Do you see AVs playing a role in your future business operations? Whether you do or not, prioritizing driver safety can directly impact your bottom line. As a best practice, all businesses should have a safety committee to implement and monitor loss prevention efforts and revise policies when needed.

NJM was established more than 100 years ago and has remained committed to providing reliable, cost–effective, and safety–focused insurance. All NJM business policyholders receive access to loss prevention resources to help reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace.