Autonomous cars seem like something reserved for high-end vehicles with advanced sensors, but one company is trying to pull them off using a bunch of equipment purchased at Best Buy. AutoX Technologies, one of the 27 companies that has been issued a self-driving car testing permit by the state of California, uploaded a video Friday of its driving system in action. There’s one big difference compared to other systems: it’s powered entirely by cameras.
In many autonomous driving systems, like Tesla’s Autopilot program, the computer takes in data from a combination of cameras, satellite navigation chips, radars, ultrasonic sonar and what’s called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Combined, these inputs allow a car to detect obstacles human eyes cannot detect and react with speed.
The problem is, these systems don’t come cheap. Tesla’s self-driving capabilities start at $8,000 when chosen at delivery, rising in cost if the buyer postpones the purchase until after delivery. A Velodyne LIDAR puck can cost $8,000 alone, and that’s in recent years. Early Velodyne designs used in the Google self-driving car prototypes cost $75,000.
Cameras, on the other hand, are widespread. Their use in a number of everyday gadgets has driven prices down over the years. AutoX claims it bought the cameras used in the video from Best Buy at $50 each.
“It could not be cheaper than that,” Jianxiong Xiao, founder and CEO of AutoX, told Business Insider. His students at Princeton University used to call him “Professor X,” but he left his position in the summer of last year to kickstart his business.
In the video, the car handles a number of driving conditions with apparent ease. The company is most interested in partnering with car manufacturers, where it could face competition from the likes of Mobileye that want to offer a solution that uses more advanced sensors. But AutoX could have an advantage on the cost front.
“We believe that autonomous driving should not be a luxury, and we are making it universally available to every citizen,” the company writes on its website.
Watch the system in action here: