Retrofit your car for automation for $10,000

Google is just one of many companies around the world looking to get in on the automated car revolution that many are sure isn’t too far away. There’s already a bunch of technologies out there for lane assist, automatic braking, automatic parking and some even that are hinting at cars that will drive off and find a parking space for you within the next couple of years. But the holy grail of course is to make a car entirely automatic at a price everyone can afford. Google is one of the more advanced firms in that field, but even it is only looking to trial a couple hundred of its automatic cars in the next year or so. One group of MIT graduates however, believes that they can make any-car fully automated for just $10,000.

The company the team has put together to perform these aftermarket modifications is called Cruise Automotive and despite the fact that there isn’t really legislation in place to really allow this type of vehicle to exist, they’re ploughing ahead anyway. If anything, they deserve kudos for their gumption.

While they remain confident that any car could take on the Cruise system, for now the team is only offering to modify 2012 or newer Audi A4 and S4 vehicles. While that is somewhat limited its customer base, what the Cruise system can do is quite staggering.

Cruise Automotive’s RP1 system can steer your car, brake for you and make sure you stay in-lines on highways at the touch of a button. The idea being, that you drive through the little lanes that are a bit more complicated to navigate, but once you hit a motorway, stick it on autonomous cruise and you can sit back and relax until it’s time to get off. It can even handle traffic jams for you, ending the need to constantly shift in and out of first.

To do this, the RP1 does leave you with a steering wheel and pedals, which is a lot more than the Google’s idea does, stripping out everything in favour of automation. Of course it also does its thing at much higher speeds than that of the Google’s offering, which is restricted to 25 miles per hour. On top of that, it’s electric only, so requires regular charging. Audi’s A4 and S4 vehicles do not and can be fully automated at 70 miles per hour without a hitch.

The installation takes a leaf out of the telematics book however, offering an application for your smartphone which shows you exactly what the radar system in your car sees. You can keep track of speed, orientation and all other types of statistics and data on a variety of smartphones, with Android, iOS and Windows phone support.

However hold your horses if you were heading off to order this now. You can’t get it installed in your car just yet. It’s launching in 2015, so there’s a little wait, but you can pre-order now to be part of the first 50 cars they autonomise. If you want to do so, you’ll of course need to drop $10,000 up front, but you can get a trip in one of these cars for “just” $1,000 if you want to see what it’s like.

Reserve either here and keep an eye on the site for more information over the next year.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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