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Making an Autonomous Car On a Budget

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the computer-take-the-wheel dept.

Transportation 61

cartechboy writes Tired of waiting for self-driving cars from the automakers? If 2017 and 2020 just feel too far away there's now a solution. It's called Cruise, and for $10,000 it'll turn your current ride into a self-driving car. Kyle Vogt started the company and recruited a team of engineers and roboticists from MIT to work on autonomous vehicles. Cruise plans to market the hardware as something that can be retrofitted to existing cars using roof-mounted sensors near the windshield, actuators to operate the controls, and a trunk-mounted computer that manages everything. The idea is that drivers can merge onto the highway and simply hit the "Cruise" button on the dashboard. This will engage the system and basically turns the car on autopilot. The system can use the steering, brakes, and throttle to keep the car in its lane. Currently the first system, called RP-1, only works on current-generation Audi A4 and S4 models. RP-1 is currently available for pre-order with the launch set for near year.

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Legendary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323253)

quit freaking calling it autonomous (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323275)

this may be a nice step forward in terms of cruise control, but there's nothing autonomous about their system.

Once you are in the right place on the freeway this system supposedly will keep you in the same lane and will slow down, as well as accelerate, but you are still responsible for a lot of the driving.

Re:quit freaking calling it autonomous (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 3 months ago | (#47323451)

yeah, like looking where the lane goes..

que banhammer or lawsuits in 3.. 2.. 1...

it's a driver assist device - and if someone stops paying attention to the road while using one they should be fined/thrown into a jail.

Re:quit freaking calling it autonomous (1)

Aeros (668253) | about 3 months ago | (#47323705)

But you get to spend $10K, and have one of the few cars they support. Awesome!

First Patch (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 3 months ago | (#47323315)

It will be fun to read the changelog of the first patch.

"Fixed an issue regarding the situation in which reaching a speed of 90mph could make the car turn 90 right if fuel was below 20%."

Re:First Patch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323349)

It will be fun to read the changelog of the first patch.

Yes. It'll give you something to do besides screaming and flailing when the system starts to update itself while the car is doing 80 mph on the highway.

Re:First Patch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323913)

Good thing there is no regulation requiring a voice recorder along with data recorder.

VOICE: "Ok, engaging cruise now." [clicking sound]

[a few seconds of road noise]

VOICE: "Oh, F---!, Oh, S---!" [sounds of crunching metal and vehicle crashing]

Oh Joy! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323325)

Yet another excuse for drivers to text, yap on a cellphone, read a newspaper, apply makeup or just generally not pay attention to the task of driving. That will make things so much safer on the roads.

Re:Oh Joy! (2)

Aeros (668253) | about 3 months ago | (#47323719)

exactly. Operating a vehicle is one of the things that should NOT be automated. But thats just me. If you dont want to deal with the hastle of driving take public transportation, or a cab.

Re:Oh Joy! (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about 3 months ago | (#47324055)

A better idea is to automate the texting.

Re:Oh Joy! (1)

naris (830549) | about 3 months ago | (#47324067)

I agree with you. However in a lot of places there is no public transportation or cabs (or if there is, it is not reliable). Such as in Detroit -- the "Motor City" (and Michigan in general)

Re:Oh Joy! (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 3 months ago | (#47324149)

Huh. Automated vehicles are likely to make things much, much safer in the long run. Fully automated vehicles, that is. This thing sounds more like a driver assist feature, and not something you want to trust when your attention is elsewhere; perhaps only when driving in the slow lane.

By the way, cabs are too expensive for everyday use, and public transport only takes me from a place I am not to a place I do not wish to go. I'd love to have a fully automatic vehicle so I can take a nap or read while it takes me to work. In fact, why even own a car if you could have a cheap rental or pool car rock up to your house by itself on the mornings you need it?

Re:Oh Joy! (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 3 months ago | (#47325741)

Fully automated vehicles, that is.

I don't think "full auto" is required. This is more like Tesla's "autopilot" concept than Google's "driverless" car. This would get used most often on the interstate, not so much in cities, and it's a pretty good fit for that application. I can do some work (or take a nap) between cities and take the wheel a few minutes before the exit ramp. (Or I could program certain conditions such as weather or traffic to trigger an alarm.) But even this level of automation would dramatically reduce highway casualties.

What I'm curious about is how they sense certain road conditions, such as "black ice" that can fool even the most experienced human driver. OTOH, with a broad range of sensing like RADAR and echolocation, you could plow through pea-soup fog without much worry.

cabs are too expensive for everyday use

I'm lucky to live in a place (Taipei) where public transportation is cheap and ubiquitous. Even taxis are plentiful and cheap here. I don't even own a single motorized vehicle. Why bother, when I can get to anyplace I want with less than 20min walking and $2 in fees, and I can get home from anywhere in the city for less than $10, anytime, day or night?

This is where "full auto" is required: bringing this kind of convenience to the broad, "midwestern" spaces of America. When you can make the round-trip to/from your local watering hole for less than 15 bucks, why would anyone take the risk of driving drunk?

I think Google is smart to be investing so heavily in this tech, because once we pass that tipping point, this is going to be the biggest "killer app" of all time. And in the meantime, Tesla is also smart to be pursuing their autopilot tech, because it will be a huge selling point.

Re:Oh Joy! (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 3 months ago | (#47325907)

I drive a partially automated system in my Mercedes and it's way safer than not having anything. My car literally won't hit another car in front of me unless they cut me off badly or screech to a very sudden stop. It's very relaxing when you're in stop and go traffic.

Re:Oh Joy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47326455)

because no one cuts you off in stop an go traffic???

Re:Oh Joy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47324733)

I disagree. While there will still be the need for certain vehicles in certain circumstances to be manually operated (farm equipment, construction equipment, etc.) most traffic ought to be completely automated. But NOT the Google way. That uses conventional road surfaces and relatively immense computing power to attempt completely error-free control in an unconstrained environment.

I'd much prefer that roads as we know them cease to exist, and instead convert the roads to some sort of rail system. Keeping collisions from happening in a constrained environment is far, far easier and safer. And while disruptive, it's not so completely disruptive as to completely replace everything (except may taxi drivers). You can still have a private vehicle, it just operates on the rails. Taxis don't need drivers (and probably many will decide to forego owning vehicles). And you could also use the rail system to power the vehicles, and charge appropriately. And use the system for telemetry of various sorts (i.e. the system could route vehicles around traffic jams, if there are any, or damaged rails or construction).

But it's a bit of a chicken and egg thing, and probably won't happen.

Re:Oh Joy! (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 3 months ago | (#47325515)

You have a situation where you either need to get every driver everywhere to actually be good at it, or produce a car where it won't matter if you're good at it. You think the former solution is better. I really couldn't possibly disagree more.

I think you're always going to have drivers who are inexperienced, or distracted, or intoxicated, or bored, or in some other way not driving very well. To ask people never to fail in those ways amounts to asking them not to be human.

Hey, wait a minute. That's exactly what those of us who think autonomous cars are a good idea are asking. Let the drivers not be human.

Re:Oh Joy! (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 3 months ago | (#47327679)

And not programmed by humans or by computers that were programmed by humans, etc.

Re:Oh Joy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47328211)

The difference is... when humans are programming something to be done perfectly, it will take time to catch the edge cases, sure, but they are not forced to react in very small time and make a life saving/ending decision. They can analyze the problem, think about the best solution to the problem in reference to the driver, and get the computer to react in an ideal manner. Computers can make decisions and compute faster, and when time is an issue, faster is better. Learning algorithms can replace anything that experience can do, it just needs to be given a good set of data to learn from(which can be generated, crowd sourced, etc).

Re:Oh Joy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329167)

Now you're just being stupid. Probably because you are.

Seems like a bad idea to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323351)

I wouldn't get something like this and trust it. I don't know who wrote the software. I don't know how much testing it's been through. How can I trust my life and the life of my wife, child or any other passenger to something that doesn't even have the tiny bare protection of government testing.

I hope this is swiftly banned, I don't want to be on the road with a person using this kit when it first tries to divide by zero.

I am not against autonomous cars. In fact working on a project of that nature is one of my dream jobs. I love the idea. I believe eventually it will save lives. But it must be tested for 100,000s of miles. It will require a large scale testing project with 100+ cars and vehicles.

For each software/project/kit someone has.

For crying out loud, NASA has some of the best and brightest engineers, they aren't quite so beholden to investors and they still produce software with catastrophic errors. While these guys might be from MIT (same as the NASA people), I doubt they are held to the same standard right now.

Anyway, I am happy more groups are working on it but it's not ready for consumers.

Re:Seems like a bad idea to me (1)

CreatureComfort (741652) | about 3 months ago | (#47324229)

Because getting out on the road with thousands of totally untrained idiots who are texting, talking, eating, changing CDs, falling asleep, drunk, high, etc., is such a naturally safe activity to begin with.

Please. The more automation, even in baby steps, that can be deployed quickly the better and safer every mile of roadway will get.

I'll trust this, sight unseen, a whole lot more than I trust you, or your wife, or your 16 y.o., behind the wheel.

Re:Seems like a bad idea to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329209)

than I trust you, or your wife, or your 16 y.o.,

You're right to be so distrustful. His wife can't drive worth a shit but man can she give one hell of a blowjob. His 16yo is inexperienced in both departments, but I'm workin on it!

Google should thank this guy... (2)

AdamInParadise (257888) | about 3 months ago | (#47323373)

... for being the first to be sued when a car equipped with his hardware has an accident. Google will be able to design their system around existing legal precedents instead of waiting to be sued by an ambulance-chaser.

Re:Google should thank this guy... (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 months ago | (#47323441)

sued by an ambulance-chaser.

. . . actually, what a brilliant idea for an application for an autonomous car! An autonomous ambulance-chaser!

It could be parked in front of a hospital, and as soon as an ambulance leaves the hospital, all it needs to do is scream "Follow that car!" to itself. The lawyer can follow the action from his office, like an O. J. Simpson slow car chase, and can sign the victim up via Internet video chat before he gets attended to by the ER staff.

Re:Google should thank this guy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47326913)

. . . actually, what a brilliant idea for an application for an autonomous car! An autonomous ambulance-chaser!

It could be parked in front of a hospital, and as soon as an ambulance leaves the hospital, all it needs to do is scream "Follow that car!" to itself. The lawyer can follow the action from his office, like an O. J. Simpson slow car chase, and can sign the victim up via Internet video chat before he gets attended to by the ER staff.

Why do you need to chaser to be autonomous when you could just hitch [haylettautoandrv.com] on to the back.

Just 2 models of Audi? (3, Informative)

sir-gold (949031) | about 3 months ago | (#47323423)

Why is this system only usable on these two specific models of cars? Is there something special about the cars that makes them easier to automate, or does everyone at the company drive exclusively brand-new Audis and they have nothing else to test with?

It seems oddly specific for a system that should be pretty universal.

Even if the kit does have to be custom-made for each model of car, wouldn't it make sense to design the initial version for something with a wider market, like a Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus?

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (2)

jdunn14 (455930) | about 3 months ago | (#47323515)

The specificity is odd, but I think you need to take the disposable income of the people who own the cars into account as well. A higher percentage of Audi drivers than Corolla drivers will shell out for this system. Depending on the difference in percentage it might still make sense to pick the Corolla but the math isn't quite as simple as car counting.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (1)

jdunn14 (455930) | about 3 months ago | (#47323551)

Ok, replying to myself because I realized that if you wanted to be even more specific you should probably know who has the disposable income AND how much time they spend on the highway. It sounds like this thing isn't made for stop-and-go traffic, although the summary could be misleading me (because why would I RTFA?). I would expect the buyers to be early adopter types who want the newest gadget, spend significant time in a highway environment, and have $10k to throw at the problem. That's seems like a profitable, but not terribly plentiful group especially if the buyers consider the liability questions at this point.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 months ago | (#47324953)

The specificity is odd, but I think you need to take the disposable income of the people who own the cars into account as well. A higher percentage of Audi drivers than Corolla drivers will shell out for this system. Depending on the difference in percentage it might still make sense to pick the Corolla but the math isn't quite as simple as car counting.

I would think the Corolla guys would probably be more interested in the system than an Audi driver, who tend to be a bit more fanatical about driving. I mean, the Corolla is really just a means to get from point A to point B reliably with little fuss, muss or anything. It's cheap, efficient, reliable, and for pretty much everyone, a boring car offering little in the way of "fun" for a drive.

An Audi, though, people generally buy them because they want to feel the road, every bump, shift down and power through, etc. It's a more fun ride and those who purchase it generally do it because they don't want to get from point A to point B, but want to have a journey and some fun doing so. They enjoy driving.

A self-driving addon would seem counter to this. You might as well ask if they make it for Ferraris or Lamborghinis or something.

Drift! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329281)

the Corolla is really just a means to get from point A to point B reliably with little fuss, muss or anything. It's cheap, efficient, reliable, and for pretty much everyone, a boring car offering little in the way of "fun" for a drive.

My Hachi Roku [wikipedia.org] would beg to differ with you. Your description of the Audi is EXACTLY the effect you receive when you drive this now dead-and-gone Corolla. I've had mine on life support for the last 10 years and wouldn't trade it for a dozen Audis.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (5, Informative)

melstav (174456) | about 3 months ago | (#47323577)

The steering wheel.

Most vehicles (if not all) being marketed for consumer road use have power steering. The standard (in the USA, if not globally) is to use hydraulics to help you move the wheels back and forth as you steer.

Those two models of Audi use electric motors to provide power assist, instead. That makes it MUCH easier to interface the control system.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323791)

Seems like any vehicle with parallel park assist feature should be a good candidate for this system.
I agree that cars with mechanical / hydraulic steering are going to require more hardware to equip.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47323911)

For more then one reason. Cars marketed to people that can't drive are perfect candidates for improved cruse control.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47325557)

Most modern cars have electric steering assist. (At least the European and Japanese models). I'm pretty sure both the Corolla and the Focus have electric steering assist today.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47326279)

Yay, that means that my humble Fiat Punto will be elibilbe! It also uses electical power steering. Oh wait. Guess how I discovered that? It broke a few months back, now steering is harder than if there was no power steering to begin with.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (1)

photonic (584757) | about 3 months ago | (#47327209)

Electrical power steering is much more common than you assume, especially in the last few years [cnet.com] . I know that at least my 8 year old smallish European car has an electrical one.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (1)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47323673)

I know a couple of people who are slaves to Audi A4s, apparently there's a big aftermarket for stuff. The guy I know best has probably spent enough pimping his used Audi 1.8t that he probably could have bought an off lease S4.

not at all surprising (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 3 months ago | (#47323825)

The specificity is key. This kind of system must be exhaustively tuned and tested on a very narrowly controlled hardware platform. Why do you think Google has been running their program on what looks like a 2006 Prius for so long? Supporting new models of cars will require significant configuration and testing for each new model. Just because you can attach this device to the roof of most cars, doesn't mean it is able to drive that car autonomously. Even the actuators and wiring is probably pretty specific to individual car models, and must be extensively tested as well.

From a business case perspective, I don't see people spending $10K on this unproven mountable hack, when they could spend $40K on a new Volvo or similar that has the same functionality.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (1)

naris (830549) | about 3 months ago | (#47324021)

The Audi S4 is the high performance variant of an Audi A4, so it is 2 "models" in the same carline with very few differences between them.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47324841)

A kit can never be as reliable as a designed-in system. Everything should be built to aircraft flight control spec or it won't survive normal use and will kill people, and even aircraft require considerable flight control maintenance. Standard automotive wiring is frequently cheap shit.

BTW a kit for rich folks is the only way to get early adopter money.

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47326351)

In my experience Audi drivers are the ones most in need of help with their driving

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47326583)

jelly?

Re:Just 2 models of Audi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329311)

Yes, grape please. Preferably sour ones.

Two words: legal liability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323467)

Who pays if a liability is incurred?

Re:Two words: legal liability (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 months ago | (#47324751)

Everybody!!! Isn't the legal system great!?

Yes, the driver, the installer, the manufacturer, the programmer - pretty much anyone who ever touched any part of the project will be named in the suit. It happens in building/architectural lawsuits all the time. The plumbing fails and everyone, including the drywall company, is in the list of defendants. I wouldn't be surprised to see the sidewalk lunch vendor on the list.

Re:Two words: legal liability (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 3 months ago | (#47325237)

Who pays if you get into an accident using cruise control on current cars?

Here it comes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323483)

And now starts the problem, when "joe everyman" wants to build an autonomus car in his garage.

And a few weeks later that car has a problem and causes a huge pileup. This is one of the times where regulation is a good thing...

fai7z0rs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323519)

Re:fai7z0rs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323579)

The 90s called. They want their meme back.

Re:fai7z0rs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329323)

7 isn't an L, MORAN, it's a T

Don't let this twit near it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323603)

Our government in action:

Eleanor Holmes Norton ‘kills’ driverless car [washingtonpost.com]

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) was invited Tuesday, along with fellow members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to test drive — er, test ride — a driverless car on the Capitol grounds.

Well, the ride never happened, because Norton did a particularly good job of testing the car’s bright-red “kill” button — which, as captured by WRC-TV’s cameras, killed the car to the point that it could not proceed with the test ride.

...

The video there is not flattering to her - at all. And some of the comments are priceless.

Can you hear it? (1)

cjjjer (530715) | about 3 months ago | (#47323667)

The sounds of US lawyers smacking their lips with anticipation upon the first accident with a self-driving car and a human.

Okay, googling "Audi A4 and S4" now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47323691)

Time for a Google image search on "Audi A4" and "Audi S4" - gotta add those to my list of people to give plenty of elbow room on the Interstate.

Humanless cars are a Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47324585)

What is all this autonomous car crap spreading around like tumors and gout? Car were designed to be driven by humans and for reasons of transporting humans and goods. What in the world do we (humans) need these goddamned autonomous cars for? WHAT is the reason for having this technology? Humans will never agree with this as an alternative to driving themselves. Is it that the wealthiest of tyrants are tired of paying for drivers with minds of their own?.

Re:Humanless cars are a Disease (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 3 months ago | (#47325575)

What is all this autonomous car crap spreading around like tumors and gout?

4 out of 5 days of the week, my commute is slowed down by an accident on a more or less straight highway. I can't figure out how people are having accidents on this road unless they're texting. Something like the car in front of them slows down, they don't notice because they're not looking at the road, and rear end someone. I had some idiot teenager total my car with 2 kids in it because he was fishing around for CDs on his floor. 40mph straight into the back of the car behind mine, which still hit mine with enough energy to total it.

WHAT is the reason for having this technology?

See above. I only have to look out the window of my car to see why I'd rather not share the roads with some drivers. I also feel like driving is a waste of my time the second a computer is better at it than I am. I'd rather read, make calls, or any number of other things.

Humans will never agree with this as an alternative to driving themselves.

I want one.

Nobody should be able to market a self-drive car.. (1)

Glasswire (302197) | about 3 months ago | (#47324707)

... unless there's a sue-able multi-billion dollar corporation behind it. Even then, big automakers are barely able to afford recalls and liability suits now - a major wrongful death suit from a errant self-driving car will take out a smaller firm or make their insurance impossible to pay.

Seem like an accident waiting to happen. (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 3 months ago | (#47325553)

I can't wait for the first lawsuit because the driver wasn't driving with due care and attention.

Uh oh, it's people from "social" (1)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#47325647)

This is not good. This is being done by people from "social", where nothing really has to work. It operates in the "deadly valley" - enough automation to allow the driver to take their hands off the wheel, but not enough automation to handle hard situations. Most of the major auto manufacturers already have that working. Toyota calls it "Lane keeping assist" [toyota-global.com] . It's coupled with "smart cruise control", which measures the distance to the car ahead and controls speed and braking. Ford, Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Cadillac have similar systems. Audi already has such as system. [youtube.com] But Audi won't let it take full control. "The driver is still responsible", they say. Audi disengages their system if the driver takes their hands off the wheel.

So this is a known technology which none of the major automakers trust enough to give it full control of the vehicle. That should tell you something.

"Cruise is currently taking pre-orders for its first system." Typical. Is there a Kickstarter, too?

Re:Uh oh, it's people from "social" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47329371)

So this is a known technology which none of the major automakers trust enough to give it full control of the vehicle. That should tell you something.

Dumbass! You, yourself, quoted the reason why it doesn't have full control- "The driver is still responsible"
It's about money. Always has been, always will be.

Yeeeeea--no... (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 3 months ago | (#47326181)

Three-ton motorized projectile that is expected to autonomously navigate roads with other multi-ton motorized projectiles, bicycles, pedestrians, wildlife and any arbitrary conditions you haven't even imagined yet... I think "on a budget" is about the scariest phrase you can utter in this context.
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