The jump from Level 2 to Level 3 is substantial from a technological perspective, but subtle if not negligible from a human perspective.
Level 3 vehicles have “environmental detection” capabilities and can make informed decisions for themselves, such as accelerating past a slow-moving vehicle. But―they still require human override. The driver must remain alert and ready to take control if the system is unable to execute the task.
Almost two years ago, Audi (Volkswagen) announced that the next generation of the A8―their flagship sedan―would be the world’s first production Level 3 vehicle. And they delivered. The 2019 Audi A8L arrives in commercial dealerships this Fall. It features Traffic Jam Pilot, which combines a lidar scanner with advanced sensor fusion and processing power (plus built-in redundancies should a component fail).
However, while Audi was developing their marvel of engineering, the regulatory process in the U.S. shifted from federal guidance to state-by-state mandates for autonomous vehicles. So for the time being, the A8L is still classified as a Level 2 vehicle in the United States and will ship without key hardware and software required to achieve Level 3 functionality. In Europe, however, Audi will roll out the full Level 3 A8L with Traffic Jam Pilot (in Germany first).