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5 Stages of Autonomy

The purpose of this article is to decipher the various approaches to trading in the financial markets. It was stimulated by the difficulty that the financial industry community has with classifying the emerging mechanics of algorithmic trading, the category AlphaTrAI is part of. In the first blog, I was describing algorithms-at-the-core traders like us as autonomous traders for descriptive purposes.This week, I want to go a step further and dissect the state of autonomy for firms like AlphaTrAI. How autonomous is the current state of possibilities? What does autonomy truly mean? Perhaps even how to ask smart questions to firms like us to truly identify how far on the spectrum one is. To make this post exciting for you, there is a chance that I might shock you with my perspective despite the fact that I am the chief executive officer of an algorithms-at-the-core shop. First things first. The best way to think about this discussion is to align it to the commonly adopted classification of autonomy in automobiles.

Level 0 – No Automation
This describes your everyday car. No bells and whistles. Just your ordinary cruise control to help with long-distance driving and minimize the risk of a speeding ticket from a lead foot. Almost all cars today will offer Level 0 autonomous technology.


Level 1 – Driver Assistance
Here we can find your adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist to help with driving fatigue. Adaptive cruise control will keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you by using radars and/or cameras to automatically apply to brake when traffic slows, and resume speed when traffic clears. Lane keep assist will help nudge you back into the lane should you veer off a bit. These systems will assist drivers but still require the driver to be in control. You can find Level 1 autonomy in most cars today.


Level 2 – Partial Automation

This is where it gets a bit more interesting. Although the driver must have hands on the wheel and be ready to take control at any given moment, level 2 automation can assist in controlling speed and steering. It will help with stop-and-go traffic by maintaining the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, while also providing steering assist by centering the car within the lane. These features are a godsend for commuters! Tesla Autopilot, Volvo Pilot Assist, Audi Traffic Jam Assist are some examples of Level 2 autonomous capabilities.


Level 3 – Conditional Automation
Level 3 autonomous vehicles are capable of driving themselves, but only under ideal conditions and with limitations, such as limited-access divided highways at a certain speed. Although hands are off the wheel, drivers are still required behind the wheel. A human driver is still required to take over should road conditions fall below ideal. In some cases, certain carmakers, like Mercedes, are offering these capabilities but have them limited for a maximum amount of hands-off-the-wheel periods of time.


Level 4 – High Automation
K.I.T.T.? Is that you? Not just yet. Level 4 autonomous vehicles can drive themselves without human interactions (besides entering your destination) but will be restricted to known use cases. We’re not too far from seeing driverless vehicles out on public roads. Though regulations constrict its availability, Waymo has developed and is in the process of testing Level 4 vehicles capable of driving themselves in most environments and road conditions. If there were no regulations or legal obstacles, you’d likely see more level 4 vehicles on the road today! This is pretty much what Tesla has been offering to premium model drivers, while the government has not fully provided clearance for it.


Level 5 – Full Automation Super Pursuit Mode!

At Level 5 autonomy, we arrive at true driverless cars. Level 5 capable vehicles should be able to monitor and maneuver through all road conditions and require no human interventions whatsoever, eliminating the need for a steering wheel and pedals. Combine a Level 5 autonomous car with a capable voice assistant and you’ll have your very own K.I.T.T.! Although many of the technological components exist for an artificially intelligent car today, due to regulations and legal battles, Level 5 vehicles are probably still many years away. Until then, we’ll have to settle for partial automation.


So let’s take this to our world, financial trading.