Self-driving cars are the future! People will no longer need to sit behind and control the steering wheel because the vehicle will drive itself to its destination. But what if you already have a car you cannot let go or you cannot afford a brand new Tesla to experience this technology?
Brevan Jorgenson says go convert your own. For only $700.
This is what the information technology senior at University of Nebraska at Omaha exactly did to his 2016 Honda Civic. He downloaded open-source plans and software from the Internet and used them to make his own self-driving car kit which is capable of controlling the vehicle’s brakes, steering, and accelerator, while sensing obstructions and other cars on the road around it.
The hardware design and software he used was shared online by Comma.ai, a self-driving technology startup in San Francisco where Jorgenson used to be an early beta tester. The Comma One kit was originally developed by the company’s founder, George Hotz, so that car owners could upgrade their vehicles to self-drive for only $999 by the end of 2016.
But Hotz, who is a notorious iPhone and PlayStation jailbreaker, hit a major roadblock with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in October 2016. It demanded that Comma.ai provide proof to regulators that its proposed device for self-driving cars would be safe, or risk having its sale blocked.
A month later after receiving the warning, Comma.ai took to Twitter and said, “Would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn’t worth it.”
So the Comma One was then renamed to Comma Neo after it was made to be open-source for anyone to download. It includes the software code and robotics research platform for the driver-assistance system.
There was a certain limitation with the kit though: it is only compatible in two car models upon release. And fortunately, Honda Civic is one of them.
Jorgenson ordered the parts needed to build Comma’s device just as Hotz released the plans online. It cost him a total of $700.
Once he had them all, he assembled and finished the project within the entire weekend. He put it to test in January.
“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 told MIT Technology Review. Brevan went on to say, “It worked phenomenally.”
Upon testing, he observed that the car cannot steer below 18 mph. He says through the Daily Mail, “Anytime you touch the gas or brake pedals the Neo disengages, it displays a message telling the driver to take over if it feels it cannot navigate the situation, there is an audible beep every time the Neo is engaged or disengaged, and there are more safety features I am sure I am not thinking of.”
He shared that Comma put safety first into its program. “The car accelerates like a grandma when it is in stop and go traffic.”
So far it was only Jorgenson who tested his self-driving vehicle, so we are taking his word for the tech he built.