In many ways self-driving cars are an eventuality and a reality.

As automakers approach full autonomy, several new cars now boast self-driving features that inch toward the goal of driver-less cars soon. Limited hands-free driving systems on the market now are GM’s Super Cruise, Tesla’s Autopilot, Ford’s Bluecruise, and many other ones in various stages of development. 

Many of these features can be grouped together in a uniform set of self-driving “levels,” which were defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers in 2014 and last updated in 2021.

Although many new car buyers don’t—or won’t—need to know what each level specifically means, it may be helpful to understand the basic principals to understand what system could be right—and what systems may not be allowed by law in their area.

MORE: GM’s Super Cruise sails past Ford’s Bluecruise

Here’s our primer on the…

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