Cars that can drive themselves have been a staple of science fiction films since … well, about as long as science fiction films have been around. The vehicles in “Minority Report” not only drive themselves, but also build themselves, raising the question “Why do they even need humans in the first place?” Even the cars in Ridley Scott’s dystopian epic “Blade Runner” (which takes place just a year and a half from now, by the way) seem to operate independently of Harrison Ford’s protagonist Rick Deckard.
Over the course of the last few years, we’ve been moving slowly towards this future as autonomous driving becomes not only more popular as an idea but more feasible in execution, too. However, we may have just taken one massive leap in that direction if Comma AI is to be believed. But what really makes Comma AI’s latest piece of hardware interesting is that it won’t enable autonomous driving through a sophisticated, futuristic computer program that can essentially think for itself — instead it uses dash cam technology to tap into your car’s data in a fascinating new way.
Comma AI’s Dash Cams and Autonomous Driving
Earlier in 2017, Comma AI released a new piece of hardware called the EON dash cam developer kit. It’s a $700 piece of tech that includes not just a camera, but also an operating system that can run the types of apps you would use while driving — streaming music service Spotify and turn-by-turn directions service Waze are perhaps the two most prominent examples.
Comma AI’s EON kit may seem sophisticated, but in reality it is actually just a glorified Android phone with a custom case and the software to match. Such is the power of the open-source revolution, one supposes.
But the real leap here isn’t what the EON kit can do today, but instead what it might be used for tomorrow. The EON kit, coupled with the recently released Chffrplus app, actually uses the included dash camera to track your driving specifically so that the self-driving AI system can be properly trained.
To put it another way, this doesn’t just mean that your car will drive itself – this could potentially mean that your car will drive itself in a way that would be replicating the way that you would drive it anyway.
The software taps into not only the EON kit’s camera, but also additional hardware like a gyroscope, a GPS and an accelerometer. Today, this means that all of the information being collected can be used to track your driving habits in the event of an accident. Not only will you be able to better understand what happened, but you’ll have the video proof needed to back yourself up in court.
That same information can also be used to “train” a self-driving car. However, the company’s representatives have been very clear that while this is absolutely where Comma AI is going, they are definitely not there yet. The product you can buy today is little more than a standard (yet powerful) dash cam. There are a number of issues with regulators in particular that need to be addressed before a world filled with self-driving and machine learning-powered cars can become a reality.
Comma AI is hardly the only company to get in on this particular game — Google, Tesla and even Cadillac have their own autonomous vehicles available to consumers, albeit in slightly limited capacities. Every automaker is taking a somewhat different approach to addressing the same goals, but the takeaway from this is clear: self driving cars are absolutely not as far off as you probably think they are.
Now, whether you’ll actually feel comfortable taking a nap or reading a few chapters of your favorite novel while your autonomous vehicle takes you wherever you need to go is another story. Even once autonomous vehicles begin to appear on roads across the country, THAT particular level of comfort is likely still a long way off for most people.