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Is a $1000 Aftermarket Add-On As Capable As Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise?

Car and Driver tested a $1,000 aftermarket autonomous driving add-on from Comma.ai against the best factory systems currently on the market. Slashdot reader schwit1 shares the report: If the self-driving car is the promised land, then today’s ever proliferating driver-assist features are the desert. Diminished claims and “it’s harder than we thought” mea culpas from self-driving’s loudest advocates suggest we’ll be wandering here for many years to come. At least the technology is meandering in the right direction, though. Thanks to recent software updates, the most sophisticated systems — Cadillac’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot — are more capable today than they were initially. This report on those systems includes a lesser known third player. For $998, upstart Comma.ai sells an aftermarket dash cam and wiring harness that taps into and overrides the factory-installed assistance systems in many Honda and Toyota models as well as some Chrysler, Kia, and Lexus vehicles, among others. When activated, Comma.ai’s Openpilot software assumes control over the steering, brakes, and throttle, and it reduces the frequent reminders to keep your hands on the wheel. As you might imagine, automakers do not endorse this hack.

Any one of these systems could confidently track the center of a lane for hours with minimal driver input on reasonably straight highways. Although no automaker admits that infotainment is part of its system’s machine learning, right after we went hands-free, Hinder’s “Get Stoned” started playing through the Cadillac’s speakers. We ignored that suggestion and threw the three systems at the toughest highway kinks, interchanges, and two-lane roads surrounding our Ann Arbor home base until either they or we flinched. There was some of each.

Cadillac Super Cruise
Highs: Locked-on-its-lane control, handles the difficult maneuvers with aplomb.
Lows: Works only on mapped limited-access highways, steering control not as confident at night, very little information shown to the driver.
Verdict: A capable and conservative commuting ally.

Tesla Autopilot
Highs: Best user interface, most versatile, extremely capable.
Lows: Dramatic steering inputs when it makes an occasional mistake, no more hands-free capability.
Verdict: One of the best, but can it really evolve all the way to self-driving?

Highs: Capable steering, brake, and throttle control.
Lows: A too-large and unadjustable gap from cars ahead, slows substantially for curves, flashes unnecessary warnings.
Verdict: If this is what’s possible with a single camera, perhaps the hardware required for self-driving won’t be as extensive as expected.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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