Until quite recently, the autonomous car was the stuff of science fiction. More hype than happening some time soon.
But with automakers spending billions to develop the technology—$75 billion by one count —the race is on to be the first to launch a fully self-driving vehicle.
This visualization from our sponsor Global X ETFs , takes a look at the drive for a fully autonomous car.
From the Flintstones to the Jetsons
What does it mean to say that a car is autonomous? Does a human driver need to be ready to take over? Can it drive on its own all or just some of the time? And do driving conditions need to be ideal or can it handle the odd thunderstorm?
Fortunately, SAE International , the global standards and engineering association, has come up with the creatively-named “Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems,” or SAE JS3016 for short.
The Six Levels of Driving Automation
The system has six levels of automation and spans a yawning gulf of features. Level zero is analogous to Fred Flintstone’s foot-powered, stone age car, while level five is something like George Jetson’s futuristic, bubble-blowing flying saucer.
Level 0: No Driving Automation
The driver is in full control and there is no automation technology. It may include support or alert systems such as stability control and blind-spot warning. Most cars on the road today are level zero.
Level 1: Driver Assistance
The driver is supported by one support system, like adaptive cruise control or lane-following assistance, but needs to be ready to take control at any time.
Level 2: Partial Driving Automation
The driver still needs to be alert and supervise at all times, but the vehicle can take over multiple functions like braking, acceleration, and steering, using Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS). The Tesla Autopilot feature is generally understood to fall under level two.
Level 3: Conditional Driving Automation
After this point you are not considered to be driving, even if you’re seated in the driver’s seat. Using artificial intelligence (AI), the vehicle handles all driving tasks. A driver still needs to be present in case of an emergency or system failure. Honda’s Traffic Jam Pilot and Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot are the only ones to hit this milestone.
Level 4: High Driving Automation
This is where you lose the steering wheel and pedals. A level four vehicle is completely autonomous, but is limited by speed or to a certain geographic area. In the event of a system failure or emergency, the vehicle can slow down, pull over, and stop on its own. A driverless taxi or public transport would be a likely application at this level.
Level 5: Full Driving Automation
This is the Holy Grail of automated vehicles. At this level, humans are completely superfluous and need only set the destination and sit back and enjoy the ride. The vehicle can drive in any situation, in all conditions, and is not limited to a particular location or speed.
So When Can I Watch Netflix While Driving?
Probably not anytime soon, if figures from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles are any indication.
The Pacific state is home to a host of autonomous vehicle manufacturers, many based in Silicon Valley, all eager to test their technology on public roadways. As a result, the DMV has developed regulations for testing self-driving cars, both with and without a driver.
Part of the rules require that manufacturers file annual reports about their activities. According to these, at the end of 2021, 26 companies testing 1,174 autonomous vehicles (with a driver) logged over 4 million miles on California roads. By way of comparison, four companies logged only 25,000 miles using driverless vehicles.
If you take the miles covered as a proxy for how far the technology has progressed, testing on systems that still require a driver—so level 3 at best—is miles ahead of driverless systems, or level 4 and up.
Hey Siri, Which Way Next?
In addition to being a really tough engineering problem, autonomous cars also raise tricky ethical questions.
Part of the difficulty has been trying to get a machine to make the same choices as human drivers would. What if the brakes fail and the AI has to make a split-second decision? Does it swerve to avoid a pedestrian and into a telephone pole, maybe killing the passenger, or keep driving?
Problems such as these are often covered in philosophy under the Trolley Problem , which features a runaway trolley and a switch. Throw the switch and save a life, but maybe take another?
Tackling this problem, which can get a bit absurd at times , is a good way to discover the “right” answer to ethical questions. Autonomous car manufacturers are going to have to have an answer in any autonomous future.
Invest in the Future of Road Transport
With autonomous car technology advancing at leaps and bounds, there are plenty of opportunities to invest in the companies working to make it a reality.
Learn more about the Global X Autonomous & Electric Vehicles ETF (DRIV) , which provides exposure to companies involved in the development of autonomous vehicles, EVs, and EV components and materials.
You can also learn how experiential technologies like AI are driving change in road transport in Charting Disruption , a joint report by Global X ETFs and the Wall Street Journal (also available as a downloadable PDF ).
Mapped: Legal Sports Betting Totals by State
In 2022, legal sports betting in the U.S. totaled over $93 billion. Which states saw the most and least wagers? (Sponsored post)
Legal Sports Betting Totals by State
Which states are driving the legal sports betting market, and which have not yet become major players? The answer is fueled by each state’s legalization status, population, and other factors.
In this graphic from Roundhill Investments , we show a breakdown of legal sports betting by state.
A State View of Legal Sports Betting
In 2022, sports betting was live in 31 states plus Washington, D.C. Betting activity is highly concentrated, with the top five states accounting for 57% of the total reported legal wagers.
|State/District||Legal Sports Wagers in 2022|
|New Mexico||Legal, no data|
|North Carolina||Legal, no data|
|North Dakota||Legal, no data|
|Washington State||Legal, no data|
|Wisconsin||Legal, no data|
|Massachusetts||Legal, became operational in 2023|
|Ohio||Legal, became operational in 2023|
|Florida||Legal, not yet operational|
|Maine||Legal, not yet operational|
|Nebraska||Legal, not yet operational|
|South Carolina||Not legal|
New York State had the most legal sports betting, largely because it was the most populous state to allow online sports wagers so far. Notably, 1.2 million accounts were created in the first 10 days of legalization. New York also has multiple teams across all four major sports—football, basketball, baseball and hockey—which boosts local interest.
New Jersey took the second spot. The state challenged the federal ban against legal sports betting, winning their case in 2018. New Jersey has since rapidly established itself as a sports betting hub, thanks to its established gaming regulations, prime location near New York City and Philadelphia, and strong gaming and tech infrastructure.
Illinois had the third highest annual total, and beat its prior state record with $1 billion in wagers in October alone. One key factor was a change to the registration process in 2022, which allowed residents to sign up online rather than in-person at a casino. Not only that, the state is home to some popular teams including the Chicago Bulls, who have the third-largest social media following of any NBA team.
Smaller, and Not Yet Legal, Markets
South Dakota had the lowest legal sports betting of the states with reported totals. The state only allows in-person betting in the city of Deadwood and at tribal casinos, with the latter not reporting the total bets they receive. Online sports betting is not yet legal in the state unless the bettor is physically at a Deadwood casino.
Montana had the second smallest total bets. The state has a small population and no major league professional sports teams. Not only that, sports betting in the state is government-run rather than a competitive market. Like South Dakota, online bets can only be placed when the bettor is physically present at a retailer.
Notably, the most populous states of California, Texas, and Florida do not yet have legal and/or operational sports betting. Together, the three states represent 27% of the total U.S. population. Sports betting was initially legal in Florida but has been paused due to ongoing legal proceedings.
Expanding Geographic Reach
Legal sports betting has expanded significantly since the federal ban was lifted in 2018. However, 17 states have not yet legalized sports betting in any form, and some states could see growth from allowing online betting.
As more states proceed with legalization, the consumer base is likely to continue expanding. This creates a revenue opportunity for sportsbook operators. In fact, Goldman Sachs estimates that the total revenue opportunity could grow from $900 million in 2021 to $39 billion by 2033.
Looking for exposure to the growing sports betting industry? Explore Roundhill’s sports betting ETF, $BETZ .
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