Anyone who’s reluctant to give up their 'old' car needn’t go without autonomous features. New retrofit kits will relieve drivers in future of the tedious task of steering.
The small startup, Kopernikus Automotive, from Berlin is doing what the big automakers are still working on: making self-drive technology affordable for normal drivers - with a retrofit solution. On the 18th June 2018, the maiden voyage led with a converted compact car from Ingolstadt to Wolfsburg as mere passengers in a self-driving car.
The conversion is very simple: around the car are seven cameras positioned, which are connected to a high-performance computer, the 'brain' of the self-driving car. The startup also uses for its solution the sensors and actuators that are already on board.
The system actuates among others the steering, as the parking assistant would, and reads out the radar, which actually controls the adaptive cruise control. That makes the retrofit kit cheap: it will cost around €3,000. Also included is an online connection that allows over-the-air updates and upgrades to be played on the car. This is how the car constantly learns to become more autonomous.
Also on board: a middleware with its own App Store, which allows the driver to load various softwares for various purposes on the car. This way the software can easily be changed by clicking on the mobile phone, as for example for left-hand traffic in England. For the various softwares, Kopernikus cooperates with developers of self-driving software worldwide.
Autonomous tuners from Berlin
“We are something like an autonomous tuner. However, this category does not exist yet. We invented them,” said Stefan Jenzowsky, Co-founder of Kopernikus Automotive. His colleague Tim von Törne agreed with him: “Yes, when we told investors this for the first time two years ago, they hardly believed us. But after we were able to show what is already possible with today’s production vehicles, they have supported our project.”
The basic idea came to the two founders in 2016 when they considered whether actually all self-driving software will be written once by the major automakers. “The question is whether we will drive autonomously through Mumbai or Beijing with software developed in Germany. We do not believe that. That’s why we work with different startups who develop self-driving software in different countries.”
Consumers reach Kopernikus through the mobile Kopernikus-Store, which allows the driver to select and start the right self-drive software on their mobile phone.
“We believe in the creativity of our partners. We already have seen self-driving software which drives the ideal line of a racetrack as fast as possible - with the driver as a mere passenger. However, most applications are less spectacular, ranging from autonomous parking to comfortable highway driving” noted Jenzowsky.
Even if the self-driving system is still in development, it has been demonstrated once before in Wolfsburg.
“We will deliver the system to our partners first. Only when we have the coverage and regulatory issues under control, will we offer our system to consumers. The distribution will then, depending on the right of admission, first be made in a few selected countries” said von Törne. However, the very impatient ones can already book today: on the website you can already reserve your autonomous retrofit kit."