Remember George Hotz? You know, that guy who hacked/jailbreak/unlocked the first iPhone (and many subsequent iOS versions), pwned the PlayStation 3, went to work for a string of giant tech companies, trolled Elon Musk, and then started his own self-driving car startup all before the age of 26? Yeah, that guy!
Well, he’s back, and this time he’s all about the “scam” associated with self-driving vehicles.
Hotz was last in the public eye when he decided to release the software from his Comma.ai startup online for free after receiving a letter for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that expressed concern about the product that his company was working on.
That letter didn’t explicitly instruct Hotz to shut down his company and the product but it did suggest that the company should delay selling any of the Comma One products into the market until the company could guarantee safety on public roads for those using the autonomous software designed to retrofit existing “non-intelligent” vehicles.
According to a new in-depth report by The Verge, which includes time spent with “Geohot” and real-world demonstrations, it seems that Hotz and the Comma.ai team are still on a mission to build and deploy a hardware and software-based combination which brings an aftermarket intelligent autonomous driving solution to vehicles which are already on the road.
Hotz is now coming from a position that he believes his Comma One product – which consists of his openpiliot software combined with a modified OnePlus smartphone, a dongle called The Panda, and the Giraffe – can work harmoniously in a vehicle with the driver still in position and ready to take control if needed. He describes this as a “driver assistance system” and not a “self-driving car.” There’s a big difference.
Every self-driving car on the road today is worse than a human. Everyone, Waymo included. So with a human we believe these systems are safer than a human alone. And they certainly can be more convenient.
So, what about the NHTSA and its objections to what Comma.ai was trying to achieve? Hotz is selling the necessary hardware via Comma.ai/shop/ for around the $1,000 mark, with the necessary openpilot software downloaded for free by the consumer via GitHub. He believes this method of distribution allows him to sidestep any regulatory as his company isn’t selling “selling any products that control a car.”
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