Self-driving retrofit software now available for free, but it comes with caveats

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends
commaai self driving retrofit software free commaone x
commaai self driving retrofit software free commaone x

Rather than jump through state and federal hoops, Comma.ai is giving away its self-driving retrofit software. George Hotz, the inventor of the Comma.ai windshield-mounted driver assistance device, has made the software and the hardware build plans available for free as open source code, according to Reuters.

Comma.ai’s original plan was to sell the in-car device for $1,000. After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wanted proof the device was safe, and the California DMV sent a cease-and-desist letter, Hotz pulled it from the market. At the time Hotz said he was exploring other products and mentioned he was then in China.

More: Retrofit self-driving tech startup bails rather than dealing with feds

Now the software and instructions for building the hardware are available for download on Github at this link. According to the accompanying description, “Currently it performs the functions of Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) for Hondas and Acuras. It’s about on par with Tesla Autopilot at launch, and better than all other manufacturers.”

Specifically, the Comma.ai setup is supposed to support the 2016 Acura ILX with AcuraWatch Plus and 2016 Honda Civic Touring Edition, again according to the company.

Of course, those who are interested should remain mindful that government regulators have not certified the software as safe for use. Moreover, before you jump to do the download, be aware that Hotz cautions the software is “alpha quality,” which means it’s still an early version that likely needs fixes and more work.

Alpha, in this reference, doesn’t mean top dog, but the first working release, usually preceding a later beta version that still has bugs but is ready for feedback. So don’t expect to download the code elements from Github and be done. Plus, you still have to build the device.

Reuters mentioned that when two of its reporters rode along with Hotz on a test drive in September, at one point the device sensors stopped tracking other vehicles and the car had to be stopped, and both the car and the devices had to be restarted. Freeway on-ramp steering was also beyond the then-current device’s mastery and Hotz had to take over.

So if you have the software and hardware tinkering chops, you can build your own self-driving device and contribute to its development. It’s there for the asking, just don’t expect it to be easy.