Gizmos & Gadgets: X-Matik Gives Older Vehicles Add-on Autopilot

November 17, 2017 – Here’s the scenario. You own a five-year-old vehicle or even older and it still runs great, is well maintained, and has lots of life left in its engine and other systems. At the same time, you are envious of all the new autonomous and semi-autonomous features available in new vehicle models. If you want those features is your only option to trade-in the old reliable or is there another way?

Yes says X-Matik, a Toronto, Ontario-based company, the inventors of LaneCruise (TM), described as the “first ever, truly universal, self-driving add-on kit” to retrofit your older vehicle to make it partly autonomous.

I qualify X-Matik’s claim to be the first company to provide an add-on kit. Back in 2014 a U.S. company, Cruise Automation, created RP-1, an autopilot kit for retrofitting Audi A4s and S4s. When I recently visited their website, however, it appears they are no longer in that business and instead are creating a fully autonomous vehicle.

And Nvidia, back in January of this year, at the Consumer Electronics Show, revealed AI-Co-Pilot, a suite of tools capable of making most vehicles fully autonomous.

But there is a significant difference among the three technologies. Cruise Automation came with a $10,000 price tag, pretty steep. And Nvidia’s product is probably designed to be integrated into vehicles during production rather than a retrofit. That’s not the case with LaneCruise which is truly an add-on that takes less than an hour to install. And better still is priced at less than $3,000.

So what does LaneCruise give you?

In an article appearing in The Globe and Mail this week, Nima Ashtari, the company’s CEO and Product Architect, describes the functionality the kit provides. You get an LCD screen interface connected to a central controller called the BrainBox. The BrainBox connects to controllers that are add-on attachments to the vehicle’s existing accelerator and brake pedals and steering wheel. A forward-looking camera is mounted to the rear-view mirror. The BrainBox is designed to neatly fit under the driver’s seat.

Functionality is equivalent to auto-steering found on Tesla and some Nissan models (with ProPilot installed), and adaptive cruise control, a feature I have on my Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (a great feature when doing a long highway drive). X-Matik plans to add autonomous lane change to the next release, a feature that the driver activates when using the existing vehicle’s lane-change indicator.

X-Matik plans a controlled release of 200 (you can sign up on the website if you want to be an early adopter) to be delivered to Ontario drivers shortly. The company has received angel investment and a good shot of publicity when its inventors pitched the technology recently on TV’s The Dragon’s Den, the program that inspired the U.S. reality television show, Shark Tank.

Why can X-Matik offer the itechnology it has developed at such a low price point? Because unlike other developers of autonomous technology, LaneCruise does not need to tap into an existing vehicle’s systems and controls. The entire kit is external. Brake and accelerator pedals and steering wheel controllers are externally attached. The camera mount is a straightforward install and when the system is activated opens a drop-down display below the rear-view mirror.

There are limitations to LaneCruise. It doesn’t come with lidar or radar. But what it does offer is an affordable taste of semi-autonomy for drivers with older vehicles who want to get a taste of the future even in an old clunker. And for the budget conscious, the $3,000 price tag for the functionality provided seems like a good deal.

 


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...

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  • John Doe
    • lenrosen4

      The first name may be the same but don’t confuse Nima Kalbasi and Nima Ashtari. These are two different people.

    • lenrosen4

      If you claim to be a John Doe, while suggesting two people with the same first name are the same people, your comment lacks credibility. I would suggest you come out and tell us who you are.