Comma.ai originally planned a $1,000 kit to allow people to retrofit their cars with driver assist features, but backed away in October last year after receiving a warning letter from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandating regulatory compliance. Instead of dealing with regulators and lawyers the company decided to open-source everything.
The Comma One kit will no longer see the light of day as a market-ready device but the team behind it is back with a new product and more modest ambitions — at least for now.
The Panda is a $88 dongle that plugs into you car’s OBDII port — something every car made after 1996 should have — and gathers a host of data. Normally this includes speed, location, fault codes and a few other things but the Panda can reportedly surface data from a lot more sensors. For now it doesn’t actually know what each sensor in every car does but since everything is open source, Comma.ai is hoping to build a community around its platform to help fill in the gaps.
Along with the Panda dongle the company is launching Chffr, which is a dashcam app that lets users record their rides, as well as a Controller Area Network (CAN) analysis tool — the main vehicle interface standard — called Cabana to interpret all the information gathered by the tiny device.
“Think of it like a Fitbit but for your car. People like seeing data from their bodies and I want to give them that same access but for their car,” George Hotz, the company’s founder told TechCrunch.
Panda isn’t targeted at the average car user but rather tinkerers and enthusiasts that may want to build products around it. Down the road, Hotz says he’d still like to build a kit for self-driving capabilities in every car and possibly offer a monthly subscription plan.