Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

X-Matik Inc. is developing technology designed to turn a car into a self-driving one for less than $3,000. The beta kit takes about and hour to install and will include an LCD interface, a camera and actuators on the floor pedals.

There's going to be a new dividing line among car owners within the next few years between those who can afford to buy sure-to-be-expensive, mostly-autonomous vehicles and those who continue to drive less costly manual options.

Nima Ashtari wants to help that second group enjoy the benefits of self-driving cars, too. X-Matik Inc., his Toronto-based company, this month is launching a test version of its first commercial product – LaneCruise, an add-on kit that promises to turn virtually any existing car into a partly autonomous vehicle for less than $3,000.

"It's pretty remarkable when you see people's reaction to it," he says. "It's usually one of amazement and surprise that you can do something like this with so little money and no need for a new car."

Story continues below advertisement

LaneCruise is made up of a number of components that take about an hour to install, Ashtari says. The key part is an LCD interface that houses a forward-looking camera, which attaches to a car's rear-view mirror.

The camera sees where the vehicle is going and relays the information to a processing unit underneath the driver's seat.

Actuators, attached to the steering wheel and pedals, control the vehicle and allow the driver to cruise hands- and foot-free, similar to existing systems, such as Tesla's Autopilot and Nissan's ProPilot.

LaneCruise is much like an advanced form of cruise control, since it helps a vehicle maintain a set distance and speed behind another car. The driver, however, has to continue paying attention to the road.

The system is also capable of automatically switching lanes, Ashtari says, but the driver needs to activate the lane-change indicator, which is part of the X-Matik kit, to do so.

The function won't be included initially in the beta kit, which is being limited to 200 units to buyers in Ontario. The company wants to gather further data from test users to see if additional cameras need to be installed around the vehicle before a planned full launch next year.

The test program is coinciding with X-Matik's appearance on Dragon's Den on Nov. 16, in which Ashtari – a former mechanical engineer for Tesla and Honda – managed to secure $350,000 in funding.

Story continues below advertisement

The company has also attracted a further $500,000 in funding from angel investors, which has allowed it to boost staff to 12, from three at the beginning of the year. Ashtari plans to hire another 10 employees in the next three months.

X-Matik is one of seven entities to receive approval from the Ontario government to test self-driving cars on the province's roads. The others are Uber, the University of Waterloo, Erwin Hymer Group, BlackBerry's QNX, Continental and Magna. X-Matik says its system has logged 56,000 kilometres since testing began last year.

Ashtari has high praise for the government for giving smaller companies the opportunity to participate alongside bigger competitors. "Ontario saw that our technology was on par with pretty much anything else they've seen," he says. "If only big companies are allowed to innovate, then innovation is going to be really slow."

Bigger companies have been less kind. Tesla, in particular, has been critical of, a U.S.-based company that is working on similar aftermarket autonomy.

"It is extremely unlikely that a single person or even a small company that lacks extensive engineering validation capability will be able to produce an autonomous driving system that can be deployed to production vehicles," the electric car maker has said. "It may work as a limited demo on a known stretch of road … but then requires enormous resources to debug over millions of miles of widely differing roads."

Industry analysts are cautious, pointing out that X-Matik's kit lacks some of the advanced technologies being built into autonomous cars by bigger companies, such as laser-radar and sonar.

Story continues below advertisement

But they also note that making self-driving technology more affordable, rather than a luxury, will be key to its widespread adoption.

"You can't go out and buy a new Tesla if you're a student," says Nigel Wallis, vice-president for internet of things and industry research at IDC Canada. "The idea of being able to democratize self-driving cars has promise."

Ashtari admits his company's system has limitations because of its lack of additional sonar and radar, but adds that it warns drivers when those limits are reached so that they can take over. "We're quite used to hearing that skepticism," he says.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies