Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems


This Information Report provides a taxonomy for motor vehicle automation ranging in level from no automation to full automation. However, it provides detailed definitions only for the highest three levels of automation provided in the taxonomy (namely, conditional, high and full automation) in the context of motor vehicles (hereafter also referred to as “vehicle” or “vehicles”) and their operation on public roadways. These latter levels of advanced automation refer to cases in which the dynamic driving task is performed entirely by an automated driving system during a given driving mode or trip. Popular, media, and legislative references to “autonomous” or “self-driving” vehicles encompass some or all of these levels of automation. These definitions can be used to describe the automation of (1) on-road vehicles, (2) particular systems within those vehicles, and (3) the operation of those vehicles. “On-road” refers to public roadways that collectively serve users of vehicles of all classes and automation levels (including no automation), as well as motorcyclists, pedal cyclists, and pedestrians. This document does not provide complete definitions applicable to lower levels of automation (namely, no automation, assisted, or partial automation), but they are described as points of reference to help bound the full range of vehicle automation. Active safety and driver assistance systems that partially and/or temporarily automate certain aspects of vehicle operation (including systems that automatically intervene to avoid and/or mitigate an emergency situation and then immediately disengage), but otherwise rely on a human driver to operate the motor vehicle in real time, are also not included within the conditional, high, and full automation taxonomy types that are the focus of this document.


This Information Report provides a taxonomy describing the full range of levels of automation in on-road motor vehicles. It also includes operational definitions for advanced levels of automation and related terms. This document provides a foundation for further standards development activities and a common language for discussions within the broader “Automated/Autonomous Vehicle” community.

Standard Published Revision Status
J3016_201401 2014-01-16 Latest Issued
  • SAE J 3016
Members save up to 19% off list price.
If you are currently using this technical report:
HTML for Linking to Page
Page URL

Related Items

Technical Paper / Journal Article
Training / Education
Training / Education
Technical Paper / Journal Article
Technical Paper / Journal Article