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At TechCrunch's Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Comma.ai founder George "Geohot" Hotz announced the launch of the Comma One semi-autonomous driving device. Hotz said at the conference that his company has worked on the Comma One for about a year, and it will be available at the end of the year for $999 and a $24 per month subscription fee.

But aside from the reasonable price, which TechCrunch points out is possible thanks to off-the-shelf components, the appeal here is that it's an add-on to an existing car that can be installed at home by the car's owner. This gives people with normal cars the opportunity to have semi-autonomous features without having to buy an entire vehicle... that is, if you have a Honda or Acura with lane-keeping assist, since Comma One is currently only compatible with those vehicles. It remains to be seen if the company will add more vehicles to the list over time.

The device is roughly the size of a large cell phone or aftermarket navigation system, and it has a screen on the front and a pair of cameras on the back. The computer combines information from the device's cameras and the car's radar sensors to understand what's happening and how to respond. Hotz explained at the conference that this system is similar in capability to the Tesla Autopilot system, and will be able to complete a drive, start to finish, without the driver having to touch anything. He did however emphasize that the driver must still pay attention in the event something goes wrong, comparing the experience to watching a young student driver.

Hotz told TechCrunch that the device should start shipping at the end of the year. He also said that owners of compatible Honda products in the San Francisco area are eligible for beta testing, and can get involved by emailing him at george@comma.ai. So if you've been pining for a semi-autonomous vehicle of your own, but couldn't spring for a Tesla, you won't have to wait much longer. We should point out that we don't know yet how well the system works, though we hope to find out soon.

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