SAE International and ISO Collaborate to Update and Refine Industry-Recognized SAE Levels of Driving Automation

Updated SAE J3016™ Recommended Practice Refined for Clarity and International Audience


WARRENDALE, Pa. (May 3, 2021) – With the rapid advancement of driving automation, SAE International, in collaboration with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), announced today an important update to the industry’s most-cited reference for driving automation capabilities: SAE J3016™ Recommended Practice: Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles, commonly referenced as the SAE Levels of Driving Automation™. SAE J3016 provides a taxonomy with supporting terms and definitions for SAE’s six levels of driving automation. The SAE Levels range from no driving automation at Level 0 to full driving automation at Level 5, in the context of motor vehicles and their operation on roadways.

This latest update to SAE’s Levels of Driving Automation refines the previous version of the Recommended Practice with the addition of several new terms, substantial refinement and clarification of misinterpreted concepts, and restructuring of certain definitions into more logical groupings. Notable changes to this version of the Recommended Practice include:

  • Further clarity on the differences between SAE Level 3 and SAE Level 4, including the role of the fallback-ready user, the possibility of some automated fallback at SAE Level 3, and the possibility of some alerts to in-vehicle users at SAE Level 4.

  • Additional terms and definitions for two distinct remote support functions: remote assistance and remote driving, as well as the users who perform those functions: remote assistant and remote driver. 

  • SAE Level 1 and 2 driving automation systems have been given the name “Driver Support Systems” as a counterpart to the term “Automated Driving Systems” used for SAE Levels 3-5.

  • Explanation for how classifications of sustained driving automation fit into the broader context of driver assistance and active safety features.

  • Reasoning for not including warning and momentary driving intervention systems in the classification of the Levels of Driving Automation.

  • Definitions for vehicle types have been grouped together by Conventional Vehicle, Dual-mode Vehicle and ADS-dedicated Vehicle. 

  • Defining and clarifying the concept of failure mitigation strategy.

“As the development of automated driving technologies continues on a global scale, SAE J3016: Levels of Driving Automation has evolved to align with the developing technologies and deployment strategies. Our collaborative partnership with ISO allowed us to expand and refine the Recommended Practice to better equip international customers with clear, concise and consistent language and definitions,” said Barbara Wendling, chairperson for the SAE J3016 Technical Standards Committee. “Since its launch in 2014, the mobility industry has looked to SAE’s Levels of Driving Automation for citation in official documents where precise language is essential, such as in laws, regulations, guidance documents and standards.”

The SAE J3016 Technical Standards Committee worked collaboratively with partners from ISO/TC 204 Intelligent Transport Systems—in a joint working group including representatives from nine countries—to carefully address common concerns with previous versions of the Recommended Practice. The latest updates to SAE J3016 incorporate ISO’s international expertise to create a document that is more consist for use across the global mobility community.

The latest version of the SAE J3016 Recommended Practice: Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles is available to download for free at: The SAE J3016 Levels of Automation graphic has been updated to include new trademark guidance. All taxonomy content from the 2019 version remains unchanged in this latest version. The new version of the graphic is available here.

About SAE International
SAE International is a global association committed to advancing mobility knowledge and solutions for the benefit of humanity. By engaging nearly 200,000 engineers, technical experts and volunteers, we connect and educate mobility professionals to enable safe, clean, and accessible mobility solutions. We act on two priorities: encouraging a lifetime of learning for mobility engineering professionals and setting the standards for industry engineering. We strive for a better world through the work of our philanthropic SAE Foundation, including award-winning programs like A World In Motion® and the Collegiate Design Series™. More at


Continue reading »