A self-driving car for $4,000? College student says it can be done

Most self-driving cars are either the stuff of dreams or the stuff of dream budgets (often costing nearly a hundred thousand dollars for conversion kits). This college student says he has created a kit that can transform ordinary cars to self-driving vehicles for under $4,000.

Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters/File
Traffic moves in Los Angeles, California. A college student believes that he can develop a kit that can transform any normal car to a self-autonomous vehicle for less than $4,000.

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?

ALSO READ: Half Of U.S. Drivers Don't Recognize Tire-Pressure Warning Light

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.

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. 

DON'T MISS: The Most Unusual Car Features Of All Time

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.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.