There is a lot of work being done right now in the automobile industry. Some of the biggest companies are now devoting time and resources to self-driving cars. The technology and platforms we use everyday are also looking to expand into our vehicles, bringing them into our exceedingly digital life as well. As it stands, self-driving technology is still far off. Conventional cruise control can hardly be put in the same basket. There has to be a middle ground here. That’s what the folks at Cruise have tried to find. Their new product, Cruise, acts as a “personal chauffeur” by taking over from the driver on supported roads.
The very concept and technology behind Cruise is what sets it apart from fully autonomous vehicles like the ones Google is working on. It hasn’t been designed to completely eliminate the driver’s role, the technology lingers between a cruise control feature and the ability to self-drive.
The main reason for this is to keep costs down. Fully autonomous technology we’ve seen up till now is ridiculously expensive, Cruise falls in the relatively cheaper range.
All of the necessary sensors are located inside the Cruise RP-1 pod. It also includes cameras, a rader and other measurement systems to keep an eye on what’s ahead on the road, be it obstacles or other vehicles. The Pod relays its information to the Cruise Computer which is fixed in the trunk of the car, its not bigger than a normal amplifier for the in-car entertainment system.
For now its functionality is severely limited. A 2012 or later Audi A4 or S4 is required for it to work. Its not compatible with any other car. Moreover it only works on highways in California right now. Cruise is described as an “autopilot,” which takes control of the steering and speed at the click of a button. It guides the car down the road without needing input from the driver, being able to keep the car in the lane and keep a safe distance from the car ahead
Its the technology that’s truly interesting though. Cruise itself is working on adding support for more cars while also expanding the number of roads it can work on. This is consumer focused technology which may just take the pain out of those long and arduous freeway drives.
Those who are interested and want to try Cruise first need to have an A4 or S4 on hand. They can then choose to join the Cruise Founders Club, a one-time membership free of $10,000 includes one of the first fifty units of the Cruise RP-1 pod to be shipped in 2015. Those who don’t want the bragging rights can reserve one RP-1 pod for $1,000. The car will have to be sent to Cruise for installation, testing and calibration of the system.