George Hotz, also-known-as Geohot, may be well-known for being the first individual to jailbreak Apple’s original iPhone as well as going head-to-head with Sony via the legal system as part of a PlayStation 3 jailbreak case, but it appears that he is now making a name for himself as a pioneer of autonomous vehicles. Hotz has found a new passion, which sees him taking a regular Acura ILX Sedan and turning it into a cutting-edge, self-aware autonomous vehicle.
Geohot has been something of a professional nomad over the last few years. After rising to fame in the online community as being one of the first to pioneer the jailbreaking of Apple devices, and then gaining notoriety through his litigation with Sony Entertainment, he’s also had spells at Facebook as a mobile engineer, and at Google as part of the Project Zero team. Neither of those roles appear to have been intellectually challenging enough for the technical prodigy who has now chosen to pursue the development of an intelligent vehicle. This pursuit has garnered the attention of some of the large players in the automotive industry, namely Elon Musk’s Tesla.
Geohot’s vision of an autonomous self-driving vehicle is actually quite staggering considering it has been put together as a solo effort out of his own garage. The modified Acura contains a 21.5-inch screen that displays the car’s verbose feedback. The internal system is built on top of the Ubuntu Linux operating system and provides instant feedback from a set of cameras and laser-based radar (lidar) systems. There’s also the addition of a joystick on the center console which engages the self-driving system of the vehicle. All of this technological goodness is powered and controlled via a mini control center built into the glove compartment of the car. The goal appears to be to rely on in-depth artificial learning rather than pre-programmed driving rules.
As you might imagine from someone with the tenacity and audaciousness of Hotz, the vehicle he has created doesn’t simply copy what others are trying to do in this particular space. In fact, the San Francisco resident is looking to develop a system that would effectively eliminate Mobileye – a company providing driving assistance systems to organizations like Tesla – from the marketplace. That level of ambition has apparently caught the attention of Tesla CEO Elon Musk who is said to have offered Hotz a “a multi-million dollar bonus with a longer time horizon that pays out as soon as we discontinue Mobileye”. Not even that level of offer was enough to tempt Geohot into working directly for Tesla.
At this present moment in time, the system being proposed by Hotz through his Comma.ai company shell, is a work-in-progress. When the technology has been finalized, and the integration of it has been cleaned up somewhat, the goal is to attempt to sell the system to car owners as part of a low-cost kit. If anyone can pull this off, it’s not hard to imagine that it could be George Hotz.