The big target on the motoring industry (and Google’s) radar at present is the self-driving car, a science-fiction concept made flesh and placed on our roads. We’re expecting specific models in future to feature the technology but a company called Cruise is looking to turn the average standard car into an autonomous one with the addition of a new fitting and a spot of app control. But don’t get too excited yet, the tech is very localised.
The idea is to add a unit called the Cruise RP-1, a sensor pod that contains cameras, radar and other bits and pieces, to the roof of a vehicle. Whatever it detects is sent to an on-board computer that translates the data that is ‘seen’ and then sends commands to the vehicles controls in order to tell it how and where to drive. By the look of things, installing a Cruise system would be an enterprise similar to installing a high-end car stereo with the computer sitting in the boot while the controls will be integrated into your existing setup. And, of course, your car would get a whole new hat.
According to Cruise’s website the system uses radar to maintain its following distance, the steering column will have motors fitted for precise control and course correction and, most important, it will stop your vehicle if an obstacle is detected. It’ll also monitor the lanes nearby, for cars and other hazards. Plus it’ll feature app control.
But before you get your order in (drivers can reserve systems now), the tech won’t work on South African roads and only certain cars, specifically Audi A4 and A5 models, are supported by Cruise at the moment. Still, it’s a start, though we’d hate to see what your insurance would charge you to let a computer take over the driving.