Comma One, what seems to be an “off-the-shelf” self-driving module, can turn your car into an autonomous Tesla capable of driving itself with no human involvement. Such modules may become a thing in the near future because they come cheap and can give an autopilot button to standard vehicles.
Founded by George Hotz, a pro-iPhone and PlayStation hacker, Comma.ai is looking to become the next big thing in the self-driving hype and according to the company, their product will be available for general purchase by the end of this year.
Comma One won’t exactly turn your car into a cognitive death machine, rather, it will give it basic autopilot abilities much similar to the Tesla Autopilot – meaning, it can perform basic functions such as accelerating, braking, or maybe changing lanes.
Almost As Good As Tesla
The device, made up of shiny green covers, will mainly consist of camera sensors but will also use a car’s radar systems for additional road data. Which means it will only work with high-end cars with intelligent radar-powered cruise control. So you won’t see it working on a Honda City but it might work on some Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic models along with most newer imported vehicles.
Hotz told TechCrunch that his self-driving solution is on par with Tesla’s Autopilot, which actually works quite well.
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk responded in a blog post, and said,
We think it is extremely unlikely that a single person or even a small company that lacks extensive engineering validation capability will be able to produce an autonomous driving system that can be deployed to production vehicles,
Even so, Comma One comes much cheaper and you won’t necessarily have to buy a full-sized Tesla or any other self-driving car to own this feature. When it hits the shelves at the end of this year, it will cost $999 but come with a $24 monthly subscription fee. The monthly fee is for software updates and development, which will keep making the module better and help it adapt to a wide range of scenarios.
The Uber Incident
Major companies have been testing self-driving vehicles for several years now, but it will still take some time before these systems will actually become reliable enough to be accepted by the general public or the authorities. Recently, Uber’s self-driving vehicle struck a passenger in Arizona, resulting in her death, after which the company had to pull out all of its test units. However, reports confirmed that even if the car was being manually driven, it wasn’t possible to avoid the collision.
The idea of self-driving is still contentious, a Tesla car also crashed and caused a death while in autopilot. On this matter, Hortz said,
40,000 people die a year from not paying attention. It isn’t like it is a special case ‘a self-driving car killed him’, it was the case of a driver not paying attention. It did unfortunately happen with Tesla. And I think Tesla’s response was very appropriate.
To safely test their self-driving vehicles, Toyota is building its own self-driving track to test extreme scenarios that usually happen on public roads.