Driverless cars are all the rage. And why not? According to figures, self-driving vehicles are not only safer than human drivers, theyâre better for the environment too. Thereâs only one problemâ¦ and itâs kind of a biggie. Driverless vehicles arenât legally available to buy yet, plus even if they were, youâd still have to buy a whole new car, which kind of sucks.
If only there were a way you could retrofit those self-driving smarts onto your current-generation automobile. Well, it turns out you can, thanks to the brainpower of one techie startup. The RPâ1 by Cruise is an âaftermarket highway autopilotâ system that can be installed into current vehicles, turning your old jalopy into a âpersonal chauffeurâ.
The RPâ1âs onboard computer, roof-mounted sensors, and integrated motors take care of steering, acceleration, and braking, which mean you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Much like any other self-driving car, youâre still legally obliged to sit in the driverâs seat in case you need to take control of the vehicle, but provided the system functions correctly, thatâs the limit of your involvement.
If it sounds too good to be true, itâs time to become acquainted with a few significant caveats in the RPâ1âs tech specs. First up, itâs a âhighway autopilotâ system designed for major expressways. In other words, itâs smart enough to control your vehicleâs speed and make lane changes once youâre out on the highway, but it doesnât provide fully autonomous control on other kinds of roads. Youâll still need to reverse out of your own driveway (the ignominy!) and handle the vehicle on any regular roads.
Plus, the RPâ1 only works in California. Sorry, everywhere in the world that isnât California.
But the biggest drawback with this otherwise-amazing-looking add-on? Well, the real killer is that the RPâ1 is only compatible with 2012 or newer Audi A4 or S4 models. Remember that bit a couple of paragraphs back where I said it would work with âyour old jalopyâ? Yeah, well thatâs 100 percent technically accurateâ¦ provided your old jalopy is a 2012 or newer Audi A4 or S4 model. A disappointing limitation, sure, but that's where the tech is for now at least.
What really does give us hope about the RPâ1 however is that Cruise is busy working on making the technology compatible outside California and with a wider range of vehicles. So if youâve got a spare US$10,000 and youâre not too worried about the (potentially very real) dangers of being an early adopter, you can sign up for Cruiseâs email waitlist right here and be the first to know when the RPâ1 will work with your ride.
Just make sure to carefully investigate the legality of self-driving motoring in the country where you live, as the laws in this area, like the tech itself, are very much a work in progress.