Hands-Free Driving Coming to New Cars Starting in 2015

Although self-driving cars may be most popularly associated with Google’s much-talked-about prototypes and major automakers, a new startup is looking to disrupt the entire space with a system you can attach to any vehicle.

The Cruise RP-1 is a system the company calls an autopilot tool for the road. So while it’s not exactly a self-driving car mechanism, the Cruise RP-1 represents an incremental — yet major step — toward hands-free driving.

Once installed, simply pressing the Cruise button (pictured below) allows the driver to travel on a highway without touching the steering wheel or foot pedals while the system ensures that the car stays in its lane and maintains a safe distance from other cars in front of it.


The system itself can be fitted to nearly any vehicle and consists of a roof-mounted “sensor pod,” containing two cameras, a radar mechanism, GPS, inertial sensors and an on-board computer, as well as actuators that control the car’s steering, acceleration and braking actions. Using this software/hardware combination, the Cruise RP-1 constantly scans the road to keep the car operating within safe parameters in relation to other cars and the boundaries of the driving environment.

We’re calling it a highway autopilot,” says Vogt. I don’t think it’s fair to label it a self-driving system yet. It’s an advanced driving system rather than autonomous vehicle.”

Along with the car system, the Cruise also features an iOS app that allows the user to see what the system can see in real-time. Connecting to the system via Wi-Fi, the app provides a graphic that displays the cars detected around you.

But despite the fact that it’s not a full-on autonomous driving system, the launch of Cruise will immediately lead some to draw comparisons between it and other autonomous-driving-style offerings being touted by the existing players.

“Our initial product is on the [2012 or newer] Audi A4 and F4,” says Vogt. “The idea is that it will work on any vehicle, but there is a little bit of integration. But, since we’re a small company, we’re focusing on one model for now.”

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