In a driverless car technological revolution, it’s crucial who makes and provides it first. Apparently, while Google introduced the technology and currently remains busy with testing its self-driving car before it goes into full production and commercial sale, a startup company called Cruise fast shifted the gears and developed a technology that can convert an ordinary car into a self-driving one as early as 2015.
Cruise RP-1 is the very first highway autopilot technology for a car that controls the steering, throttling and braking to ensure that the car stays in its lane safely and in a safe distance from the car ahead.
“A third of the American workforce spends more than an hour a day commuting. It’s boring and dangerous. Now that we have the technology, it’s almost our responsibility to do something with it,” Cruise CEO and founder Kyle Vogt said.
The brains behind the technology are eight persons, including Vogt who is an electrical engineer and a team of roboticists and engineers from the MIT. Also MIT-educated, Vogt started the company in November 2013.
The Cruise technology has three crucial elements: the sensor pod, the controls and the computer. The sensor pod is the eye of the vehicle that sees the cars around and roads ahead and is mounted on the car’s roof. The controls are the system that engages and disengages the autopilot by pressing on the button. The computer is, simply put, the brain of this driverless or self-driving technology and is placed in the trunk of the car and mounted to the side.
Cruise may have been quite fast in developing the technology and introducing it to the market, but it says safety isn’t being compromised.
“Anytime you’re working with a vehicle it’s a safety thing,” Vogt said. “There are standard processes every automaker goes through to get things like this approved, and it’s a time-proven process. We’re doing 3rd party testing, plus lots and lots of miles of road testing.”
Vogt discloses that there are 30,000 deaths in a year because of car accidents, of which 90 percent were caused by human error, which is why he believes they have a responsibility to solve these issues, especially that they’re introducing a new technology.
“When you put a computer in a car, each one of our systems has this corpus of knowledge from thousands of hours of driving. It never gets distracted and never falls asleep. If we have technology that can compensate for the shortcomings of people, we have a responsibility to do something about it,” he said.
Further research indicates the Cruise RP-1 still has a number of limitations. For instance, it is for the meantime compatible with Audi S4 or A4 vehicles only, but the company plans to quickly expand the compatibility of its technology with other vehicles.
The company is taking preorders starting Monday, for early installation next year. Cruise RP-1 technology costs $10,000. It only takes a few hours in the San Francisco facility of Cruise to mount it up to a vehicle and install it.
Regardless of being ahead of Google in terms of offering the technology to consumers, Vogt’s Cruise team only has praises for Google’s progress in the self-driving revolution. Google’s driverless cars, meanwhile, are expected to hit the markets between 2017 and 2020.