Level 3 autonomous driving, as defined by SAE International, means that the driver can hand over control to the vehicle, but must be ready to take over when prompted.
It is seen as a key threshold in the race to develop fully self-driving cars, because it raises crucial questions about whether the driver or the automaker has liability in the event of an accident.
A number of automakes have shied away from using the term or said they will go straight to higher levels of automation in which the car is fully in control.
As such, SAE Levels 0,1 and 2 are classified as "driver support systems," while Levels 3-5 are considered "automated driving systems."
Other automakers are seeking to win certification for Level 3 systems. Honda took an early lead in March 2021 when it launched the Legend Hybrid EX in Japan equipped with the top-shelf Honda Sensing Elite suite of driver-assist technologies.
Audi was one of the first to build in the capability, on its A8 sedan in 2017, but in 2020 abandoned efforts to activate it in Europe and the U.S.
BMW reportedly hopes to launch Level 3 features on the 7 Series sedan this year. Stellantis said in December that it will introduce Level 3 technology -- developed in partnership with BMW -- on its cars by 2024.