Google’s exciting project on self-driving cars makes big news in the media, but a consumer debut of self-driving cars from Google or other automakers like Mercedes-Benz and GM is still years out and could be expensive at first. Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based startup is planning to kickstart the self-driving car movement with a sensor for $10,000.
This week, Cruise began taking pre-orders for its RP-1 system, which can be installed into Audi A4 or S4. The company is offering 50 units at $10,000 a piece and it says it will begin fitting them to cars in early 2015.
Cruise’s RP-1 is not as sophisticated as Google’s design for a driverless car. Instead, it is an autopilot system for use on highways. Drivers must take care of their driving until they are on a highway in their desired lane. Then a tap of a button takes the control of the accelerator, brake pedals and the steering until it is disabled when the driver takes control of the steering wheel or taps a pedal.
Right now, the kit only works with any 2012 or new Audi A4 and S4 vehicles, but Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt is planning to make the technology work with other carmakers as well.
Vogt says “We need to be collecting data to make our system smart and reliable enough where they can drive without you paying attention,” Vogt noted. “That’s the long term goal.”
The potential benefits of using such technology are to reduce road accidents and improve productivity, assuming drivers will have more free time on the road.