Google is pushing ahead with developing fully automated cars complete with environmental sensors, but could a tuned-down version of the autonomous vehicle sway consumers and placate regulators?
Several years ago, Google unveiled its autonomous vehicle project. However, the technology -- and likely high price -- of these cars if they eventually hit the streets are likely to be out of most people's budgets, and regulators are already having a hard time working out how autonomous cars will fit into today's rules of the road.
Even still, such cars are years away from becoming commercially available. In the meantime, one startup is aiming to harness autonomous technology -- but in a potentially safer, more affordable fashion.
San Francisco-based startup Cruise Automation is developing a $10,000 accessory which makes your car smarter. Strap the gadget to the roof of your car and plug in to the footwell, and you can put your car on autopilot down highways.
Once on a long stretch of road and within the right lane, drivers can push a button which allows Cruise to take control of the accelerator and brakes, as well as the steering. The car continues on 'autopilot' until a driver turns the system off -- whether through tapping the gas pedal or taking control of the steering wheel.
It is unclear how much attention a driver would still have to dedicate to the road -- especially as there will be no warning if a hazard appears or accident takes place -- and the system is still in testing on California's 101 and 280 highways.
As of Monday, drivers can pre-order the RP-1 device, and installation will take place in 2015. However, the technology only works with Audi A4 and S4 cars currently. Cruise says that eventually its technology will become compatible with other car manufacturers.
"We have plans to expand to other models," Cruise's founder Kyle Vogt told Forbes. "We haven't made formal decisions to what would be next."