The Comma.ai system plugs into the car's existing technology.
Automotive technology start-up Comma.ai has unveiled an add-on semi-autonomous driving system that the company claims will cost $999 and be available by the end of the year.
You can watch the unveiling, which took place at TechCrunch Disrupt SF earlier this month, above.
According to company founder George Hotz, the Comma One system does not transform a car into a fully self-driving machine, but does provide similar functionality to the Tesla Autopilot system. It consists of a box that fixes to the headliner above the windshield; much like the original version of Autopilot, Comma One gathers most of the data needed from a camera in the box, and the system also taps into the car’s existing radar sensors.
The camera also functions as a dashcam, the footage it records being easily accessible to settle any claims resulting from accidents. Unlike Tesla's camera system.
At launch, Comma One will only be compatible with a small number of cars, but the company hopes to broaden the range of compatible cars in due course.
Speaking at the launch, Hotz said of the system: “It’s Mountain View to San Francisco without touching the wheel. It is fully functional. It’s about on par with Tesla Autopilot.”
The price point has been kept relatively low because Comma.ai uses inexpensive, off-the-shelf components. Having paid the upfront cost, buyers will still have to pay a monthly software subscription of $24.
Hotz, a notorious iPhone and PlayStation hacker, noted that though many automakers are working on semi- or fully-autonomous driving technology, only Tesla has yet brought anything to market. Of Tesla he said: "If they are the iOS of self-driving cars, we want to be Android."
“We’re going to try our best to ship it before the end of the year. Again, in very limited quantity,” Hotz concluded. It will be most interesting to see if he achieves that goal. And, more importantly, if the Comma One system actually works.