Google's driverless car project has gotten people pretty excited about how the technology could potentially change transportation, including grueling rush-hour commutes. But a San Francisco startup, Cruise Automation, may be able to provide a much simpler and less expensive solution to consumers before Google's project hits the market.
Instead of providing a brand-new car equipped with technology that allows it to drive itself, Cruise Automation is working on a rooftop accessory that plugs into the footwell, and would cost about $10,000.
The company has begun taking preorders for 50 units of RP-1, and plans to begin installations next year. The downside, however, is the product only works with Audi A4 and S4 cars, but the company is working to make it compatible with other car models.
RP-1 kicks in after drivers have gotten their car on the highway and have gotten into their desired lane. They then push a button to trigger the system, which will take control of the accelerator, brakes and steering. Drivers can easily turn the system off by tapping the gas pedal or taking control of the steering wheel.
It's still unclear how much attention users of RP-1 would need to pay to the roads while the system is on. Ideally, users would want to be able to check emails, or just sit back and relax. However, Cruise's founder Kyle Vogt is weary of advising early customers, as he is still conducting tests on highways in California. During these tests, researchers only go hands-free for 30 seconds to 10 minutes at a time.
“We need to be collecting data to make our system smart and reliable enough where they can drive without you paying attention,” Vogt said. “That’s the long term goal.”
He adds that it will still be another six to nine months of testing before they begin selling the product.
“Not because there’s a law but because we’re being realistic. This is a safety control system so we have to be absolutely sure it’s safe before we sell it to someone.”
See how The Cruise RP-1 works in the video below.