Buying a self-driving car, like a Tesla, off of a new car lot is an expensive ordeal. But because of the demise of a Silicon Valley Startup that was about to sell after-market self-driving kits, people are apparently now doing it on their own.
Comma.ai was a San Francisco startup that was developing a $999 device that could upgrade cars to steer and brake on their own. When they ran into red tape nuisances with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Comma scrapped the business and released the hardware and software designs for anyone to use as they pleased.
So University of Nebraska, Omaha senior Brevan Jorgenson grabbed the plans and got to work when he saw that his 2016 Honda Civic was one of the few compatible cars. All he needed was $700 worth of parts which was comprised of a circuit board that communicates with the car’s electronics, a OnePlus 3 smartphone (the most expensive part at $439) and a 3D-printed case.
He installed Openpilot (the software left behind by Comma.ai) on the OnePlus 3 and set to work installing the device where his Civic’s rear-view mirror once sat. And then, one dark night, he set to testing the device on a dark highway, as he explained to MIT Technology Review.
“It was dark on the interstate, and I tested it by myself because I figured if anything went wrong I didn’t want anybody else in the car,” he said. “It worked phenomenally.”
He’s not the only one retrofitting cars for autopilot. In fact, Los Angeles company Neodriven is selling a complete package for $1,495 or one Bitcoin if you’re not up for soldering a circuit board. You’ll need either a 2016 or newer Honda Civic with Honda Sensing package or an Acura ILX with AcuraWatch.
As for the legality of this all, it’s perfectly cool as long as you comply with general state driving rules. But, it is a little murky.