We hit the road with Comma.ai's assisted-driving tech at CES 2020
This plug-and-play system can give many late-model vehicles advanced adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping technology.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
George Hotz wants to make driving chill. The Comma.ai CEO rolled out the latest version of his company's assisted-driving hardware here at CES 2020, featuring a more user-friendly interface and a cleaner install. The Comma Two is a piece of hardware about the size of a smartphone that can be mounted on your windshield. A forward-facing camera shows the road ahead with your lane highlighted, your speed and the speed limit.
To activate, you download the Openpilot software. It's free, open-source software that gives many late-model vehicles from Acura, Chrysler,
, Jeep, Kia, Subaru and Toyota the ability to accelerate, brake and stay in a lane with no intervention from the driver.
To start, you merely press the "set" button on the car's native cruise control system. A new infrared, rear-facing camera keeps tabs on the driver while an improved cooling system means the Comma Two can be used even in the baking heat of Death Valley in the summer. Drivers can take over control of the car at any time by tapping the brake or gas pedal. While the previous iteration was a bit messy, with dongles galore, this new system plugs directly into the car with two hidden wires.
Watch this: We take a ride with George Hotz in his Comma.ai enabled Honda Civic at CES
My previous test of the Comma.ai system on the highway in San Francisco resulted in smooth acceleration and no disengagements. This drive, on a busy street in Las Vegas, proved equally successful. Hotz's
stayed centered in the lane, even through a confusing intersection, and remained engaged while behind another car at a red light. While I had to take over once thanks to a semi truck causing chaos, the technology wasn't thrown off by a rogue compact car that entered from the right and quickly crossed multiple lanes of traffic to make a left turn.
On the way back, I let the Honda's native adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist take over. The lane-keeping assist would not work at the 35-mph speed and the adaptive cruise control braked late and harsh, to the point where I just turned it off. The Comma Two tech had a far smoother overall operation.
Comma Two tech isn't some far-out thing, either. You can order it on the Comma.ai website right now for $999, with the first units shipping on Jan. 20.