Google, Apple and Tesla want you to buy a new self-driving car. Pilot says they can make your old one do the same. For $999. Any takers?

Pilot is a device to install on your car roof. It connects to an Android tablet inside and your car’s drive-by-wire system and you are set to go. You do not need a fully featured Tesla Model S for that. It is enough to have electrical steering, breaking and acceleration, called “drive-by-wire” systems. In addition to that, Pilot also provides additional safety features like road sign recognition, blind spot detection and parking assistance.

The company is founded by three automotive enthusiasts from Riga. CEO Rihards Gailums has previous startup experience and was lately seen organizing community events for automotive hackers in Riga and San Francisco. CTO Andris Eihmanis has over 30 years experience in software and hardware development, with previous projects including satellite communication appliances for defense industry, timing and smart home systems, as well as image recognition for cars. CMO Artis Āre has over ten years of both technical and marketing experience, now Senior Growth hacker at Growth Hacking Asia in Singapore.

The team built their first prototype at Garage 48 Hardware & Art Tartu in February and was recently admitted to Enchant Accelerator and Seed fund in Singapore, specializing in consumer hardware.

 

“We want to turn the tables in self-driving car industry and customer’s mindset. Companies like Google, Apple and Tesla are developing new [semi] self-driving cars and keep their tech closed in secret systems, so they would get people to buy new expensive cars. We are building an open-source ecosystem that works on top of your existing vehicle.”

Rihards says there are over 1.2 billion cars on the road that qualify to use Pilot, and they are not going to disappear anytime soon. Additionally, he points out that all self-driving cars currently available come pre-programmed and do not learn over time. Tesla Model S is the first vehicle with dynamic AI and costs between $70,000 and $110,000. Pilot device is expected to cost just $999.

Pilot is not alone in their pursuit. Mobileye is working with similar technology, and George Hotz, the first person to unlock an iPhone, has built his own self-driving car device last December and is now developing it under Comma.ai. Rihards says Pilot’s key differentiator is team’s determination to move beyond building a product and create an inclusive open-source ecosystem for self-driving enthusiasts from around the world.

The ambitious team has just received their first $50,000 seed round from Enchant fund. They plan to use it for acquiring an old Toyota Prius and showing the world how Pilot works. Pilot launch is planned for CES 2017 in January. Before that, first pre-orders will be announced via their email list. Pilot team’s vision is to prevent car accidents, saving 300,000 lives in America in the next decade and further $190 billion a year in post-accident healthcare.

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