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College Senior Turns His Honda Civic Into a Self-Driving Car Using Free Hardware, Software (technologyreview.com) 132

holy_calamity writes: University of Nebraska student Brevan Jorgenson swapped the rear-view mirror in his 2016 Honda Civic for a home-built device called a Neo, which can steer the vehicle and follow traffic on the highway. Jorgenson used hardware designs and open-source software released by Comma, a self-driving car startup that decided to give away its technology for free last year after receiving a letter asking questions about its functionality from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Jorgenson is just one person in a new hacker community trying to upgrade their cars using Comma's technology. "A Neo is built from a OnePlus 3 smartphone equipped with Comma's now-free Openpilot software, a circuit board that connects the device to the car's electronics, and a 3-D-printed case," reports MIT Technology Review. The report notes that Neodriven, a startup based in Los Angeles, has recently started selling a pre-built Neo device that works with Comma's Openpilot software, but it costs $1,495.
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College Senior Turns His Honda Civic Into a Self-Driving Car Using Free Hardware, Software

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  • Next headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2017 @10:38PM (#53909073)

    Next headline: College Student Arrested For Building Autonomous Car That Hit Something

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Next headline: College Student Arrested For Building Autonomous Car That Hit Something

      That's not catchy enough for the Mainstream Media. Trye:

      "Berserk Cyborg Car Escapes Lab, Goes on Killing Spree!"
         

    • Is that illegal? Perhaps negligence? Would it be any different than taping the accelerator to the floor and letting it loose on the road?
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Next headline: College Student Arrested For Building Autonomous Car That Hit Something

      And the next line: Insurance company refuses to cover damages, clean-up costs, hospital bills, loss of income due to disability and so on. Even if you do eventually win expect to spend a few years in court with a lawyer driving you into bankruptcy first. Also if you're arrested you have the right to a lawyer, not so much in civil court when the insurance company claims you broke the terms, I'm sure they have something in the wall of legalese that will apply.

      • And the next line: Insurance company refuses to cover damages, clean-up costs, hospital bills, loss of income due to disability and so on. Even if you do eventually win expect to spend a few years in court with a lawyer driving you into bankruptcy first. Also if you're arrested you have the right to a lawyer, not so much in civil court when the insurance company claims you broke the terms, I'm sure they have something in the wall of legalese that will apply.

        I don't know the US laws; in Germany your third party liability has to pay if the car was insured, and the damage wasn't caused intentionally. (And your car is almost always insured, even if you didn't pay your fees; if the insurance company decides to cancel your insurance, they will send a letter to you, and another to the police to seize your car until you insure it again).

        That has always covered accidents caused by drunk drivers, by thieves and so on. Because third party liability is a legal requirem

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2017 @10:47PM (#53909101)

    Geohot, a renowned hacker decided to try making a self driving car. It kinda worked, but it is, well, a hack.
    However, when regulators came over and asked him to prove that it was actually safe enough for public roads, he backed down and that's how we got Comma.ai free.

    I've nothing against Geohot and Comma.ai, quite the opposite in fact, they are great hackers, in the positive sense. However, when lives are on the line, being clever is not enough, we also need the boring and expensive work to make sure it is safe.

    • Are there regulations and procedures to prove that it's safe? There were a number of one and two person entries into the DARPA grand challenge.

      It's not a terribly difficult problem to get to work 99.5% of the time, but with lives at risk most people aren't too happy with that number. The airline industry has a failure rate of 1 in 10^-13 deaths per passenger mile or something like that.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        The thing is, I doubt it'll ever be 100% safe. There is always a chance of some kind of glitch or bug. If the goal is 100% we can hang it up now. But if you consider how dangerous letting people drive I think I'd be happy with 80%. I see people tweeting and texting all over the place and that's not even talking about people yapping on the phone, eating or reading a damn magazine! Then there are the people that just can't drive. They lack coordination or something. I think 80 percent is better than hu

        • Would you fly in a plane that was only 80% safe?
          • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

            I drive in a car on roads with people that aren't that safe. I'd rather a computer was driving those cars.

            • Ah yes you saw someone change lanes recklessly one day so now all humans suck at driving. You have probably seen ten thousand people driving properly since then but you people never notice that.
              • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

                I notice that many people range from inattentive to reckless. Today I went through a school zone during pick-up time and was driving about 30-35 in a 30 zone, and got my doors blown off by a Yukon that did a quick lane change immediately after passing me due to another "slow" car observing the speed limit. Yes, I know most drivers aren't reckless idiots and it just seems that way but enough are that I believe computer control would reduce accidents and especially severity of those accidents.

        • In 2015 over 35,000 people died in auto accidents and that's doesn't include those that are maimed, some never to walk again. I think autonomous vehicles could bring that number way down.

          The difference with robot cars is that the lower number will be purely random.
          I'm not sure that sits well with many people.

          • by j-beda ( 85386 )

            In 2015 over 35,000 people died in auto accidents and that's doesn't include those that are maimed, some never to walk again. I think autonomous vehicles could bring that number way down.

            The difference with robot cars is that the lower number will be purely random.

            I'm not sure that sits well with many people.

            Currently the death rate is already largely random - anyone who isn't a driver has virtually no control over the accident rates, and probably a large number of drivers had no real control of the situation once it started going bad. Of course our perception of control might make us feel safer than we would be in situations where we perceived ourselves to be less in control.

            That's why we end up with safety legisilation that mandates seatbelts and crash standards and backup cameras that might have little succe

            • Currently the death rate is already largely random

              No it isn't. There is some random elements, but it you're familiar with crash statistics, you'll know that once you take out the common factors such as alcohol, drugs, mobile phone use, fatigue, bad weather, speeding, faulty vehicle, health issues etc, the chances of death on the road drop dramatically.

              • by j-beda ( 85386 )

                Currently the death rate is already largely random

                No it isn't. There is some random elements, but it you're familiar with crash statistics, you'll know that once you take out the common factors such as alcohol, drugs, mobile phone use, fatigue, bad weather, speeding, faulty vehicle, health issues etc, the chances of death on the road drop dramatically.

                You missed my point by chopping off what I said. Was that deliberate? It seems needlessly argumentative. The quote continued with "anyone who isn't a driver has virtually no control..."

                I don't disagree with the useful information you have added to the discussion.

                While you have some control over your own behaviour, your odds of encountering someone else being infleuenced by "the common factors such as alcohol, drugs, mobile phone use, fatigue, bad weather, speeding, faulty vehicle, health issues etc." are la

                • You missed my point by chopping off what I said. Was that deliberate? It seems needlessly argumentative. The quote continued with "anyone who isn't a driver has virtually no control..."

                  They choose who they get in a car with.

                  We often have an illusion of complete control over our destiny when we are behind the wheel.

                  This is my point. We don't have complete control, but we have some control. Even as passengers we have a choice in who we drive with. And 'some control' has more emotional value than 'no control'.

                  Autonomous systems seem likely to reduce many of these common factors in the other cars on the road, so I suspect they will become more common if they in fact do so.

                  I agree that robot vehicles will have a place, but they will also introduce different problems, so the argument can't be reduced to 'less overall accidents equals win'.
                  If less overall accidents was the only deciding factor for people's transport choice, then this problem has

      • It's not a terribly difficult problem to get to work 99.5% of the time

        I'd say any technology that is 20% better than humans should just be let out on the roads the way we do 80 year old drivers.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Are there regulations and procedures to prove that it's safe? There were a number of one and two person entries into the DARPA grand challenge.

        It's not a terribly difficult problem to get to work 99.5% of the time, but with lives at risk most people aren't too happy with that number. The airline industry has a failure rate of 1 in 10^-13 deaths per passenger mile or something like that.

        They weren't even regulations. The government was halds-off the entire thing. They were merely inquiry questions meant to h

      • It's not a terribly difficult problem to get to work 99.5% of the time, but with lives at risk most people aren't too happy with that number.

        Depends.

        If the system works even 90% of time and there's a human backup that is alert and focused, then it's good already.

        (like autopilots found in airplanes, boats, some modern high-speed train.
        Autopilots help automating some minute detail of the driving/sailing/flying.
        But autopilots are still under the supervision of a human in charge.
        It just relieves the human of part of the stupid hard gruntwork.

        That's also were Tesla's autopilot and Google's prototypes on highway fell in).

        If the system works even 99.9

        • You hit the nail on the head except for the fact that not all humans are capable of staying focused on the ride while not involved in it, and what is the point of that anyway? Otherwise, right on point.
          • not all humans are capable of staying focused on the ride while not involved in it

            Hence some strategies of asking to keep the hands ready on the wheel (and other similar micro-involvements)

            (And there is experience, coming from the world of train automation, that suggest that this works (a bit).
            e.g.: TGV train operators are required by the system to periodically hold the thrust control wheel)

            Also in my personal experience, you still remain involved in the driving :
            - even if the adaptive cruise control is taking care of keeping distance with the car in front, you need to periodically adjus

    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      Not any more, Trump's in charge! We'll get to make things up as we go just like he's doing right?

      LoB
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2017 @10:59PM (#53909147) Journal

    Young people today are impressive. When I was a senior in college, I was turning milk bottles into bongs.

    They were sweet bongs, though.

    When I got to grad school, that all changed because I was suddenly surrounded by people smarter than me and I had to actually work. But those first seven years of college were a lot of fun.

    • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

      So once you got to grad school you had to make calibrated multichambered bongs with working valves and heat resistant materials?

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Tuesday February 21, 2017 @11:03PM (#53909159)
    It is pleasantly surprising that Honda lets third parties connect to the vehicle control electronics. I would have expected fiercely guarded proprietary systems...
    • by dknj ( 441802 )

      Nope, CANBUS is an open protocol, if you have a real CANBUS reader (not one of those $13 ELM junk) you can read every piece of data coming across the bus. A honda civic is the cheapest car you can buy and when I say cheap this also means they went cheap on security too. Newer e.g. Audi's and Mercedes' have since separated critical components to a secondary bus (which you can access via the ECM under the hood but its no longer as simple as plugging into the ODB2 port).

      My question is how is steering done?

      • by cstacy ( 534252 )

        Nope, CANBUS is an open protocol

        I like how all the threads keep coming back to pot...

      • It only works on Honda Civics with "Honda Sensing", which includes Lane Keeping Assist. So they tap into that for the steering.

        So basically you buy a car what already has Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist. And you buy this box made by an amateur and run open source software on it that claims to be autonomous driving, but is actually just Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist implemented by an amateur on non-automotive grade hardware.

        Pointless as well as dangerous.

        • LKAS just pulses brakes to keep it car in Lane. It detects lanes using a camera.

          OpenCV can easily detect lanes, it has been used in many systems in the past. Beyond that, your ABS controller controls braking these days to prevent loss of control and it does this by independent braking of wheels. Similar technology is used to keep your car handling smooth around a turn.

          Good to know these guys aren't doing anything unique

      • if you have a real CANBUS reader (not one of those $13 ELM junk) you can read every piece of data coming across the bus.

        Does ELM327 sniffer mode miss packets?

      • Sounds like a fascinating project, though I think you were wise to avoid getting yourself into trouble. Interestingly, from TFA:

        Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, says that federal and state laws probably don’t pose much of a barrier to those with a desire to upgrade their vehicle to share driving duties. NHTSA has authority over companies selling vehicles and systems used to modify them, but consumers have significant flexibility in making changes to their own vehicle, says Smith, who advises the U.S. Department of Transportation on law and automation.

        However, I think this law professor is still giving bad advice. Simply because the NHTSA won't stop you does not mean that you would have immunity or pity if something went wrong, especially if it hurt other people.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      You have to dismantle part of the dashboard, because they firewall the standard diagnostic port to prevent some random OBD-II dongle spewing bogons that affect steering or something.

      The docs for the control electronics are not available without NDA, but you can just sniff the packets off the wire. This is the guy who cracked open the PS3 by physically glitching the memory bus, and no protection scheme ever really works anyway.

    • I would have expected fiercely guarded proprietary systems...

      They are fiercely guarded by the impenetrable force of security through obscurity. And if there's anything we learnt from the car industry is that this is the only security they have.

  • Look at all those Tesla owners without a 3D printed case
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In the 1960s, it was theorized that with a dedicated track, and some computer power, it would be possible for vehicles, holding a few people each, could reduce the need for cars. Various groups around the world never could get all the problems taken care of, including sudden bunching up of traffic.

    Now that computing power has exploded, now might be the time to try dedicated PRT roads again. Basically half a ton, unpiloted vehicles, on overhead roads. I am aware it is considered an eyesore, but if robots use

    • cpu power will not fix tack switch limits / spacing / slow moving people that can jam up a enter / exit point. rural area covage / transfers from this system to other systems in place. very built up Urban areas with little room for tacks and stations.

  • While what this kid did is impressive, he's only done the easy part: getting a car to drive itself under a limited set of circumstances that he knows about.

    The hard part is to get a car to drive itself under all sorts of weather and road conditions, and safely handle all kinds of expected and unexpected road hazards, such as potholes, people, bicycles, and crazy drivers.

    • I'd hope the average /.er knows that the hard part to self-driving cars is 'productising' it into something that passes regulations and doesn't kill people. However, I say this guy's pretty cool - first up, he's done some Ultimate Geek Hacking - it involves computers, 3d printing and cars - what's not to love!?. Second, he's shown it's possible for ordinary people to get some distance with self-driving cars. It means Fred-in-his-shed can take a look at this technology and try some stuff out. Sure, most of

      • I agree with everything you said, except the last phrase. I think you wouldn't have to be a millionaire to tinker with self-driving technology, but you certainly would need to spend millions to go into business.

    • I'm waiting to see how they will make the sensors impervious to blowing sticky snow and frost. When you park your car outside in the winter you kind of want it to be able to see the road the next morning without going through an hour long procedure to clear everything. Some mornings you are lucky if the windshield wipers are working.
  • Two days ago I was at a launch party for the 2017 Honda Civic. There was a 1st generation Civic from 1978, my own 1991 4th generation Civic, and several subsequent generation Civics, all in the Honda showroom arrayed around the new model.

    What worries me is that so much on the new model has gone automatic. It's got a radar set in the front bumper to measure distance to the vehicle in front. It can be set to automatically speed control itself to maintain safe distance from the vehicle in front. It's got blind

    • It was always the common sense option with UK driving tests to take them in a manual gearbox car, so that you'd be qualified for both manual and automatic. But for anyone now who fancies owning an EV, I'd suggest also learning to drive in an EV. Over the next few years EVs are going to take over the entire market. So those skills of clutch control and gear changing and hill starts will probably remain unused.

      And quite possibly in 20 years time there will be no point in taking driving lessons at all, because

  • So, they got a letter from big government, and decided to give up and go home? That must have been a seriously threatening letter. How dare they try to innovate and compete against the large corporate oligarchs like Google, Apple, and Tesla?

    • by Yosho ( 135835 )

      The letter wasn't threatening at all, actually. It was mostly the NHTSA asking questions about their design and testing [techcrunch.com] in order to ensure it was safe on the roads. Hotz decided to fold rather than even try to answer the questions.

  • It feels like if I had self driving car I could just lounge in the back doing desk work. The back could be like an office.
  • I'm surprised someone hasn't already mentioned that the 2016 civic with sensing package (not even that expensive) already follows the car in front of you and stays in the lanes.
  • He should have no trouble scoring a sweet job...

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