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Startup takes on Google with $10,000 accessory that could turn your car into a driverless car

Cruise Automation Driverless Car

News of Google’s work on driverless cars certainly finds its way into the media more often than news covering other companies in the space, but that hardly means Google is the only company making exciting progress. While Google is hard at work producing its own autonomous vehicles, San Francisco-based startup Cruise Automation is taking a different approach to tackling the same market. Instead of developing its own vehicles, the company has created a $10,000 accessory that may someday be able to be retrofitted to any car to turn it into a driverless car.

This week, Cruise began taking pre-orders for its RP-1 system, which can be fitted to an Audi A4 or S4. The company is offering 50 units at $10,000 a piece and it says it will begin installing them in cars in early 2015.

Cruise’s RP-1 is not as complex a system as the driverless cars Google is building. Instead, it is an “autopilot” system for use on highways. Drivers must control the vehicle until they are on a highway in their desired lane. Then a tap of a button enables the RP-1, which controls acceleration, braking and steering until it is disabled when the driver taps a pedal or takes control of the wheel.

The RP-1 only works with a couple of Audi models for the time being, but the company is already working to support additional vehicles. “We have plans to expand to other models,” Cruise founder Kyle Vogt told Forbes. “We haven’t made formal decisions to what would be next.”

Also of note, the system still requires the driver to pay attention. “We need to be collecting data to make our system smart and reliable enough where they can drive without you paying attention,” Vogt noted. “That’s the long term goal.”

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.