Ionut Budisteanu

One of the largest hurdles facing autonomous vehicles is cost. The technology to implement driverless cars is already here. Google, Audi and other companies have proved over and over again that the tech is viable and at least theoretically safe for public streets, but few people feel comfortable shelling out the $75,000 premium it would take to make your car chauffeur you about.

Ionut Budisteanu, a 19-year-old student from Romania, may have found a way to make autonomous driving tech more affordable. Budisteanu won a $75,000 scholarship in the International Science and Engineering Fair for creating a system that uses a cheaper, lower-resolution three-dimensional radar system paired with a webcam in place of the pricey high-definition 3D radar Google uses.

As a result, Budisteanu was able to cut costs from $75,000 to $4,000. His system uses artificial intelligence software to identify curbs, lane markings and other small objects on the road with the webcam while the radar system locates people, cars and houses. In his tests, the system performed as intended 47 out of 50 times. He believes he can improve accuracy with a slightly higher definition radar system while still keeping costs low.