This Gadget Allows Regular Cars to (Almost) Drive Themselves

While several car manufacturers (and Google) are working on building autonomous cars, a startup is looking for another way to go driverless.

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Cruise Automation

Google's driverless car initiative has been off to a great start, getting approval from legislators in California for real world testing, and even its own mini-city in Michigan. While several car manufacturers are also working on building completely autonomous vehicles, one startup is looking for another way to go driverless. Cruise Automation created a $10,000 device that straps to the roof of your existing vehicle, then plugs into the footwell to take over your car.

The device, called the Cruise RP-1, "sees the road and cars around you." It does this through a combination of cameras and radar, as well as Sensor Pod relays, which allow Cruise to make split second navigation decisions. 

To be clear, Cruise isn't completely driverless. A human still needs to be in the car and able to take over the driving. It's more of a "highway autopilot." First, you drive onto the highway and select a lane. Then, much like regular cruise control, you turn Cruise on. Cruise takes over the gas and brake pedals, but in a twist, it also takes control of the steering wheel. If the driver needs to, they can turn Cruise off right away, either by tapping the pedals or grabbing the steering wheel. This is a very different approach to Google's car, which doesn't have any of these traditional car components. (It doesn't even have brake pedals.)

Right now, Cruise is taking pre-orders and hopes to install them in early 2015. While the system looks impressive, there is one major drawback. It only works in Audi A4 and S4 vehicles at the moment. The A4 starts at $33,800 and the S4 at $48,100. That means the least expensive Cruise enabled vehicle will still be over $40,000. 

“We have plans to expand to other models,” Cruise founder Kyle Vogt told Forbes, “We haven’t made formal decisions to what would be next.” The device still has six- to nine-months of testing to go through, so don't get too excited about hopping in your driverless-ish Audi too soon.

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About the Author

  • Polly Mosendz is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she covers breaking news.