Self-driving cars are still in testing phases, years away from hitting the market. But if you really want a car with an autopilot feature (and you happen to drive a relatively new Audi, live in California and have $10,000 lying around) then you might be able to give your car an upgrade as early as next year.
A sensor pod on the roof keeps track of everything happening on the road, and a small computer in the trunk controls the brakes, acceleration, and steering wheel. “We we believe it offers a more unique and complete experience to the modern cruise control and is merely what cruise control should be,” [Daniel Kan, Head of Operations at Cruise] says.
The first iteration of Cruise, the RP-1 is expected to ship early next year, but it is only available for drivers that own 2012 or later Audi A4s and S4s. Currently, the RP-1 only works on highways in California, though the company says they plan to expand the service area.
"When you drive onto a highway and merge into a lane, you’ll be able to hit a ‘Cruise’ button on your dashboard," says TechCrunch. "The system will take control of the car’s steering, braking, and acceleration to keep you in your lane." You will have to be in the driver’s seat, paying attention when using the RP-1, just like cruise control systems now (no texting and driving, people!)
Cruise does seem to be ahead of the game, but other companies including GM, Google, Tesla, Nissan and even Audi are also racing to make driving easier for consumers. Some are trying to make cars completely autonomous while others are working to create systems like Cruise’s, which still work with a driver.
More than just technology is keeping systems like Cruise off the road. Though laws are catching up to the developing technologies, with automated cars now legal (in some cases) in California, Michigan, Florida and Nevada, it'll likely be a while before you see robotic cars rolling down the highway in other parts of the country.