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Making an Autonomous Car On a Budget 61

cartechboy writes Tired of waiting for self-driving cars from the automakers? If 2017 and 2020 just feel too far away there's now a solution. It's called Cruise, and for $10,000 it'll turn your current ride into a self-driving car. Kyle Vogt started the company and recruited a team of engineers and roboticists from MIT to work on autonomous vehicles. Cruise plans to market the hardware as something that can be retrofitted to existing cars using roof-mounted sensors near the windshield, actuators to operate the controls, and a trunk-mounted computer that manages everything. The idea is that drivers can merge onto the highway and simply hit the "Cruise" button on the dashboard. This will engage the system and basically turns the car on autopilot. The system can use the steering, brakes, and throttle to keep the car in its lane. Currently the first system, called RP-1, only works on current-generation Audi A4 and S4 models. RP-1 is currently available for pre-order with the launch set for near year.
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Making an Autonomous Car On a Budget

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    this may be a nice step forward in terms of cruise control, but there's nothing autonomous about their system.

    Once you are in the right place on the freeway this system supposedly will keep you in the same lane and will slow down, as well as accelerate, but you are still responsible for a lot of the driving.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      yeah, like looking where the lane goes..

      que banhammer or lawsuits in 3.. 2.. 1...

      it's a driver assist device - and if someone stops paying attention to the road while using one they should be fined/thrown into a jail.

    • by Aeros ( 668253 )
      But you get to spend $10K, and have one of the few cars they support. Awesome!
  • First Patch (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:26AM (#47323315)

    It will be fun to read the changelog of the first patch.

    "Fixed an issue regarding the situation in which reaching a speed of 90mph could make the car turn 90 right if fuel was below 20%."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yet another excuse for drivers to text, yap on a cellphone, read a newspaper, apply makeup or just generally not pay attention to the task of driving. That will make things so much safer on the roads.

    • by Aeros ( 668253 )
      exactly. Operating a vehicle is one of the things that should NOT be automated. But thats just me. If you dont want to deal with the hastle of driving take public transportation, or a cab.
      • A better idea is to automate the texting.
      • by naris ( 830549 )
        I agree with you. However in a lot of places there is no public transportation or cabs (or if there is, it is not reliable). Such as in Detroit -- the "Motor City" (and Michigan in general)
      • Huh. Automated vehicles are likely to make things much, much safer in the long run. Fully automated vehicles, that is. This thing sounds more like a driver assist feature, and not something you want to trust when your attention is elsewhere; perhaps only when driving in the slow lane.

        By the way, cabs are too expensive for everyday use, and public transport only takes me from a place I am not to a place I do not wish to go. I'd love to have a fully automatic vehicle so I can take a nap or read while
        • Fully automated vehicles, that is.

          I don't think "full auto" is required. This is more like Tesla's "autopilot" concept than Google's "driverless" car. This would get used most often on the interstate, not so much in cities, and it's a pretty good fit for that application. I can do some work (or take a nap) between cities and take the wheel a few minutes before the exit ramp. (Or I could program certain conditions such as weather or traffic to trigger an alarm.) But even this level of automation would dramatically reduce highway casualties.


        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          I drive a partially automated system in my Mercedes and it's way safer than not having anything. My car literally won't hit another car in front of me unless they cut me off badly or screech to a very sudden stop. It's very relaxing when you're in stop and go traffic.
      • You have a situation where you either need to get every driver everywhere to actually be good at it, or produce a car where it won't matter if you're good at it. You think the former solution is better. I really couldn't possibly disagree more.

        I think you're always going to have drivers who are inexperienced, or distracted, or intoxicated, or bored, or in some other way not driving very well. To ask people never to fail in those ways amounts to asking them not to be human.

        Hey, wait a minute. That's exact

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wouldn't get something like this and trust it. I don't know who wrote the software. I don't know how much testing it's been through. How can I trust my life and the life of my wife, child or any other passenger to something that doesn't even have the tiny bare protection of government testing.

    I hope this is swiftly banned, I don't want to be on the road with a person using this kit when it first tries to divide by zero.

    I am not against autonomous cars. In fact working on a project of that nature is on

    • Because getting out on the road with thousands of totally untrained idiots who are texting, talking, eating, changing CDs, falling asleep, drunk, high, etc., is such a naturally safe activity to begin with.

      Please. The more automation, even in baby steps, that can be deployed quickly the better and safer every mile of roadway will get.

      I'll trust this, sight unseen, a whole lot more than I trust you, or your wife, or your 16 y.o., behind the wheel.
  • by AdamInParadise ( 257888 ) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:36AM (#47323373) Homepage

    ... for being the first to be sued when a car equipped with his hardware has an accident. Google will be able to design their system around existing legal precedents instead of waiting to be sued by an ambulance-chaser.

    • sued by an ambulance-chaser.

      . . . actually, what a brilliant idea for an application for an autonomous car! An autonomous ambulance-chaser!

      It could be parked in front of a hospital, and as soon as an ambulance leaves the hospital, all it needs to do is scream "Follow that car!" to itself. The lawyer can follow the action from his office, like an O. J. Simpson slow car chase, and can sign the victim up via Internet video chat before he gets attended to by the ER staff.

  • by sir-gold ( 949031 ) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:46AM (#47323423)

    Why is this system only usable on these two specific models of cars? Is there something special about the cars that makes them easier to automate, or does everyone at the company drive exclusively brand-new Audis and they have nothing else to test with?

    It seems oddly specific for a system that should be pretty universal.

    Even if the kit does have to be custom-made for each model of car, wouldn't it make sense to design the initial version for something with a wider market, like a Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus?

    • by jdunn14 ( 455930 )

      The specificity is odd, but I think you need to take the disposable income of the people who own the cars into account as well. A higher percentage of Audi drivers than Corolla drivers will shell out for this system. Depending on the difference in percentage it might still make sense to pick the Corolla but the math isn't quite as simple as car counting.

      • by jdunn14 ( 455930 )

        Ok, replying to myself because I realized that if you wanted to be even more specific you should probably know who has the disposable income AND how much time they spend on the highway. It sounds like this thing isn't made for stop-and-go traffic, although the summary could be misleading me (because why would I RTFA?). I would expect the buyers to be early adopter types who want the newest gadget, spend significant time in a highway environment, and have $10k to throw at the problem. That's seems like a

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        The specificity is odd, but I think you need to take the disposable income of the people who own the cars into account as well. A higher percentage of Audi drivers than Corolla drivers will shell out for this system. Depending on the difference in percentage it might still make sense to pick the Corolla but the math isn't quite as simple as car counting.

        I would think the Corolla guys would probably be more interested in the system than an Audi driver, who tend to be a bit more fanatical about driving. I mea

    • by melstav ( 174456 ) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @09:10AM (#47323577)

      The steering wheel.

      Most vehicles (if not all) being marketed for consumer road use have power steering. The standard (in the USA, if not globally) is to use hydraulics to help you move the wheels back and forth as you steer.

      Those two models of Audi use electric motors to provide power assist, instead. That makes it MUCH easier to interface the control system.

      • Electrical power steering is much more common than you assume, especially in the last few years []. I know that at least my 8 year old smallish European car has an electrical one.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I know a couple of people who are slaves to Audi A4s, apparently there's a big aftermarket for stuff. The guy I know best has probably spent enough pimping his used Audi 1.8t that he probably could have bought an off lease S4.

    • The specificity is key. This kind of system must be exhaustively tuned and tested on a very narrowly controlled hardware platform. Why do you think Google has been running their program on what looks like a 2006 Prius for so long? Supporting new models of cars will require significant configuration and testing for each new model. Just because you can attach this device to the roof of most cars, doesn't mean it is able to drive that car autonomously. Even the actuators and wiring is probably pretty specific

    • by naris ( 830549 )
      The Audi S4 is the high performance variant of an Audi A4, so it is 2 "models" in the same carline with very few differences between them.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Our government in action:

    Eleanor Holmes Norton ‘kills’ driverless car []

    Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) was invited Tuesday, along with fellow members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to test drive — er, test ride — a driverless car on the Capitol grounds.

    Well, the ride never happened, because Norton did a particularly good job of testing the car’s bright-red “kill” button — which, as captured by WRC-TV’s cameras, killed the car to the point that it could not proceed with the test ride.


    The video there is not flattering to her - at all. And some of the comments are priceless.

  • The sounds of US lawyers smacking their lips with anticipation upon the first accident with a self-driving car and a human.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Time for a Google image search on "Audi A4" and "Audi S4" - gotta add those to my list of people to give plenty of elbow room on the Interstate.

  • ... unless there's a sue-able multi-billion dollar corporation behind it. Even then, big automakers are barely able to afford recalls and liability suits now - a major wrongful death suit from a errant self-driving car will take out a smaller firm or make their insurance impossible to pay.

  • I can't wait for the first lawsuit because the driver wasn't driving with due care and attention.

  • This is not good. This is being done by people from "social", where nothing really has to work. It operates in the "deadly valley" - enough automation to allow the driver to take their hands off the wheel, but not enough automation to handle hard situations. Most of the major auto manufacturers already have that working. Toyota calls it "Lane keeping assist" []. It's coupled with "smart cruise control", which measures the distance to the car ahead and controls speed and braking. Ford, Mercedes, Volkswagen, an

  • Three-ton motorized projectile that is expected to autonomously navigate roads with other multi-ton motorized projectiles, bicycles, pedestrians, wildlife and any arbitrary conditions you haven't even imagined yet... I think "on a budget" is about the scariest phrase you can utter in this context.

Air is water with holes in it.