Hey, Google: This College Student Built An Autonomous Car For $4,000

April 11, 2014

It's an exciting time in the automotive industry. New powertrains are in the works. Cars are learning to talk to one another. Self-driving vehicles are just around the corner.

But of course, all those advances come at a price. How much will that technology add to the cost of a conventional car? Will everyday consumers be able to afford these newfangled rides?

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If Romanian whizkid Ionut Budisteanu has anything to say about it, the answer is most definitely "yes".

According to Mashable, Budisteanu won the Gordon E Moore grand prize at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. His entry? A high-tech kit that transforms normal cars into autonomous ones.

The cost? About $4,000.

That's substantially lower than the cost of other autonomous driving system prototypes, which add $75,000 or more to the cost of the vehicle. It's even less than the $7,000 - $10,000 premium drivers are likely to pay for autonomous cars when they become commercially available a decade from now.

As you'll see from the clip above (which is, we should note, kind of a longish commercial for Intel), Budisteanu says that he was inspired by an online course in artificial intelligence from Stanford. While taking that class, he learned that the university's own autonomous vehicle had traveled more than 500,000 miles without an accident. That fact, paired with Budisteanu's own dislike of driving ("I hope I will finish the self-driving car so I never had to drive again."), the young computer scientist set himself a goal of creating an autonomous car system for less than $5,000. 

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In the end, he came in about $1,000 under budget.

We're not sure where Budisteanu's work will lead, and we have no idea whether his autonomous car system will ever come to market. Still, it's exciting to see someone so young and enthusiastic doing such great things.   


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