The effort to expand driverless car technology got a big boost today with the announcement of the Cruise RP-1, which includes a sensor pod that mounts on the roof of any 2012 or newer Audi A4 or A5.
The pod has what Cruise Automation claims are a combination of sensors, radar and cameras that are combined with a computer mounted to the side of a car's trunk. Both are connected to actuators that are installed in the car's steering wheel, brakes, and accelerator.
The idea is that the Cruise RP-1 can drive the vehicle on its own while a person remains in the driver's seat. It's not intended as a full replacement for a driver. The company adds:
It uses both radar and cameras to make sure that other drivers are not on a collison course for your car. 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.
Cruise Automation is currently allowing up to 50 customers to purchase the RP-1 for $10,000 as part of its Cruise Founders Club. Once those 50 people have payed, everyone else will have to deposit $1,000 as a down payment for the next batch of sensor pods. The first devices will ship sometime in 2015 but the company's website says it is still conducting its own testing on the pod, along with working with third parties to help in perfecting the device.
At the moment, the pod can only be purchased in the state of California, which will be the first state in the U.S. to allow for driverless cars later this fall.