Last month Google debuted their first in house designed driverless car, building on years of research in the field. Indeed driverless cars are very rapidly moving from the field of science fiction to a reality where they share the road with everyday vehicles. But while many presume that to take part in this driving (or driverless) revolution, they will need to buy a new car, this does not have to be the case.
Cruise, a Californian technology, is offering customers the ability to retrofit their everyday cars, into driverless vehicles. To achieve this, the company makes use of an innovative set up, which combines a rooftop sensor array with actuators controlling the accelerator, brake and steering wheel. Providing the brains behind this capability is an onboard computer system, also installed in the Cruise kit as a trunk like box.
The Cruise technology can be turned on and off at will, with simply the push of a button, giving drivers the ability to seamlessly switch between autonomous and manual driving. Drivers can also make use of an app which shows real time information on how the car is tracking lane information and the positions of other cars on the road. While the app is unlikely to allow direct control of the car, it most likely exists to provide drives with peace of mind, by showing them how their car is ‘thinking’ about what route to take.
Yes we are excited about this technology, but as always there is a catch. While Cruise can control braking and accelerating, to adjust speed, and steering to avoid obstacles, it is not a fully fledged driverless car. Critically, it cannot handle busy city streets and complicated traffic-light heavy regions, making the technology more of a highly-advanced form of cruise control rather than the full autonomy offered by Google.
Additionally, the other problem with what Cruise is offering is the cost. Currently the company can only fit out a select few models of cars, for the rather unaffordable sum of $10,000. Clearly, if the company wishes to expand their business, and bring somewhat-driverless cars to the masses, they will need to find a way to do it for a greatly reduced price.