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We’ve heard a lot in the motor industry about Google’s self-driving cars, but if you can’t wait until 2020, why not check out a new roof sensor designed to make everyday vehicles autonomous, although it will cost you $10,000 to own one, or £5,900 in the UK.
If you’re tired of long journeys and tedious traffic jams, you may well be looking forward to the time when self-driving cars will become an option, but in the meantime, whilst Google are working on the next generation of vehicles a new gadget capable of controlling your car remotely could be available as early as next year.
The new gadget by Cruise Automation known as Cruise RP-1, enables cars to drive on the motorway autonomously whilst keeping a safe distance from other vehicles. It claims to be the first ‘highway autopilot’ to take control of a car on a motorway, keep it safely in a lane and maintain a safe distance from the car in front.
The gadget, designed by Kyle Vogt, contains a rooftop sensor unit, with a computer in the boot and a control panel next to the driver. Vogt said: “Seven years ago I worked on an autonomous vehicle project but I was frustrated that the computational and sensing systems used were too expensive and too bulky to use…in a regular vehicle.’
Subsequently, the Cruise RP-1 is designed to see the road and cars around a vehicle by using a sensor pod mounted on a car’s roof. Through a combination of sensors, cameras, radar, and other measurement systems, the ‘sensor pod’ relays what it detects back to the ‘Cruise computer’ to make real-time decisions on where to position the car on the road.
A spokesman from Cruise Automation said the new gadget is “always watching the road even if you are distracted – and frees you from the pain of commuting, stop-and-go traffic and long trips.
“The radar allows us to determine the velocity and direction of any car around you to ensure there is enough distance for your car to come to a complete stop if there is ever a problem.”
If the new RP-1 gadget is ever in doubt about what it sees, it alerts the driver using visual and sound alerts, to request they take over the driving completely.
The system has been designed to fit into any Audi A4 or S4 built after 2012, and the company plans to roll out versions to fit other car brands next year.
The company stresses that the system is not a replacement for a driver, and drivers are expected to sit in the driver’s seat at all times and be prepared to take full control of the car at any given time.
The system is currently only licensed to be used on major highways in California. There are no immediate plans to release it into the UK.