Portable robot turns your ordinary car into a self-driving vehicle

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A self-driving car might be in your future. As companies invest in self-driving technology to bring autonomous vehicles to the automobile industry, graduate students in Israel have made it easier to turn any vehicle into a self-driving car. In theory, consumers don't need to invest heavily in a self-driving car but can opt for a portable robot that turns their existing car into an autonomous vehicle. Called IVO, short for intelligent vehicle operator, the system utilizes motion sensors, mechanic devices and cameras to create a replacement for a driver, Live Science reported.

Oded Yechiel, a grad student at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who took part in creating the robot, said the robot comes equipped with sophisticated computer algorithms.

"The advantages of having an autonomous driver is that you can transform any vehicle into an autonomous vehicle," Yechiel told Live Science. "This way, you can still utilize the fleet of worldwide cars. In addition, having a single product that is generic can really reduce costs of manufacturing when going to mass production."

Currently, the prototype of the device weighs 33 pounds and costs around $1,600 to make, which is chump change in comparison to the thousands of dollars it takes for branded autonomous vehicles to be created. Yechiel said that mass manufacturing would reduce the cost and that a newer lightweight version is being designed.

"The idea is that anyone could carry and install an IVO robot," he told Live Science.

Similar concepts exist. Like University of Oxford's Oxbotica, which features a software system that uses machine learning to turn any car into a self-driving vehicle. Startups like Cruise Automation, recently acquired by General Motors, and Otto, acquired by Uber, have been working on technology that uses sensors and artificial intelligence software to turn vehicles of all makes, models and sizes into driverless vehicles. But none use a physical portable robot like IVO.

Prototypes haven't been tested in an official capacity, but they've made tested it out in the university parking lots and in China, where restrictions are less strict than in Israel, where the robot was created. As for when it'll be available, beta testing is slated to be completed by the end of this year and the team will then look for investors to take the robot to the mainstream market.