As with any technology added to vehicles we expect the cost of self-driving cars to be much higher than a typical model when these cars hit the streets and are offered for all to enjoy the ride. Right now this autonomous technology is in the test phases and some companies, such as Tesla, that have already created systems that were close to a fully autonomous system, have pulled back the reigns a bit in an effort of caution before the technology is advanced to the point of no return.
As companies such as Tesla, Volvo and Ford continue to test their technology and Uber and Waymo create ride sharing for self-driving cars, one company is making a claim that you can turn your current vehicle into a self-driving car. This claim not only comes as a surprise but also with a low price that certainly has captured our attention. The company that says you can have this technology also says you can have it for as little as $1000, which has our ears perked up at attention and a ton of questions swirling around regarding whether this tech is actually available and reliable.
George Hotz now owns a company called Comma. If you’re not familiar with Hotz, he’s a well-known hacker who was the first person to unlock an iPhone, hack into a PlayStation 3 and a variety of other high end hacks over the years. Now he wants to provide the code for the autonomous technology to drive vehicles while charging only for the hardware that you’d need to buy. Rather than developing the cars himself he has developed the technology to be installed on what seems like every car that you can drive to make them self-driving and capable on the road.
While Hotz has packaged the hardware and prepared it for sale the NHTSA has already asked him to delay the sale of his kits. Even though Hotz claims these kits are on par with the new Tesla Autopilot 7 system, he has agreed to comply with the request for now, although he’s determined to show us how useful these kits can be. In an effort to do this he’s put the instructions for the hardware and the software on Github and encouraged people to begin to use these instructions to build their own self-driving vehicles.
So far there have been some who have begun to use the Comma technology to build their own kits. Most of those who have used these instructions have been engineers and students and the kits built have been functional. In fact some have found they can build their own kits for as little as $700 and make the cars drive on their own. Because these kits can be built and are functional the challenge is to find out whether or not the tech should be allowed to be used. If any car can be turned into a self-driving car what’s the advantage automakers have that are still working toward this goal?
This situation poses many questions. Should the Comma tech be allowed to be used and put into vehicles of the future for the full integration of autonomous driving technology? Have the kits built by Hotz and his team been built without any regard for regulations and necessary government control? Are we going to see a shift in the advancement of autonomous technology? What does the NHTSA want with these kits and when will they allow them to be released to the public? It may be time for more answer than questions when it comes to self-driving cars on the road and where the responsibility will lie for cars that are driving themselves.