Aptera solar EV will be first to get Openpilot driver-assist tech

Aptera will integrate the Openpilot driver-assistance system with its electric three-wheeler, giving the vehicle, which is classified as an autocycle, tech similar to passenger cars.

Openpilot will add adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and forward-collision warnings, along with a driver monitoring system that ensures drivers will remain attentive at all times, according to an Aptera press release. Driver monitoring, which uses a camera to read the driver’s facial expressions for signs of distractions, eliminates the need for torque sensors on the steering wheel, enabling hands-free driving, Aptera claims.

Created by Comma.ai, the software behind Openpilot is open-source, with the code available on GitHub. Comma.ai claims the system is compatible with over 200 models from mainstream brands like Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. Individual car owners can retrofit their vehicles with the system using a $1,499 kit

that includes three cameras, a GPS unit, processors, and a an OLED display.

Openpilot driver monitoring

Openpilot driver monitoring


Aptera plans to develop specific code for its own vehicle, for future updates like the ability to recognize stop signs and red lights, and a “navigate on Openpilot” feature that lets vehicles follow directions from a navigation system.

Aptera views Openpilot as the most efficient way to add driver-assist tech to its vehicles, both in terms of energy consumption (the system uses 1/10th the power of conventional systems, Aptera claims) and cost.

“Even though Openpilot has vastly surpassed nearly all driver assistance systems on the market today, big auto players have not embraced it,” Chris McCammon, the lead for Aptera’s Openpilot integration, said in a statement. “They continue to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into developing their own inferior systems, while Openpilot is open-source software that anyone can implement for free.”

Aptera EV prototype with Openpilot driver-assistance system

Aptera EV prototype with Openpilot driver-assistance system


However, it seems Aptera vehicles will ship ready for Openpilot but won’t actually come with the system. Initial customers may have to do their own installation like other Openpilot users.

“Aptera is currently working on the details of how Openpilot will be integrated into their vehicles,” according to a company press release. “Several validation steps are planned to be completed leading up to the start of production of its Launch Edition vehicles. Aptera aims to deliver an Openpilot-capable vehicle and ship compatible hardware post-delivery to be installed by the customer in less than 30 minutes.” 

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Interest in autonomous tech has been stalled compared to where it was a few years ago, so this is a cost-effective solution for a startup like Aptera, which also doesn’t need to worry about passenger vehicle standards. Its three-wheeler is considered an autocycle—and safety standards that are closer to those of a motorcycle.

Aptera has said the EV will be offered with up to a 1,000-mile range. It will get 2170 cells from EVE Energy

, and it will source in-wheel motors from Slovenia’s Elaphe. The road-trip-friendly driver-assistance system should go well with its DC fast-charging, which is now planned for the 400-mile Launch Edition.