Tuesday 29th December 2015
The First Person to Hack the iPhone Built a Self-Driving Car… in His Garage.
This is a fantastic story on many levels.
From the self-motivated hacking to the visionary tech to the unwillingness to conform to corp interests to the “Bitcoin preferred here”
Lesson from tech history seems to be that no matter how astonishing a company may seem just wait til you see the guys working out of their garage. – Michael Goldstein
George Hotz is taking on Google and Tesla by himself.
George Hotz, the first person to hack the iPhone, says he built a self-driving car in a month. How did he do it? Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance went to Hotz’s home to find out…
Tuesday 29th March 2016
Self-Driving Car Startup Fights to Beat Tesla and Google
We want to ship a product by the end of the year that people will be able to install in their own cars and it will give them more self-driving capability than the Tesla today. – George Hotz
George Hotz’s pitch is that he can build self-driving car algorithms faster and better than any carmaker or even Google.
“Google is going to ship by the end of 2020? We’re actually making this stuff work,” said Hotz, who’s wearing jeans and a black hoodie with a large white comma on the front for his new company, Comma.ai.
Since he revealed his ambitions in a Bloomberg Businessweek article published last December, Hotz has attracted plenty of attention. The CEOs of Delphi, a major auto parts supplier, and Nvidia, maker of graphics processing units, have paid visits to his basement office at the “Crypto Castle,” a three-story house located in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood and occupied by some of the city’s Bitcoin entrepreneurs.
He’s generated enough excitement to score an unannounced seed investment from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz that values Hotz’s tiny, fledgling company at $20 million, according to sources.
Hotz began Comma last October and he’s well past the lone-hacker-in-the-basement stage. Yunus Saatchi, who has a PhD from the University of Cambridge in artificial intelligence, has joined as chief machine learning officer. Saatchi was a colleague of Hotz’s at Vicarious, a San Francisco-based AI startup with $72 million in financing from investors like Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Jake Smith, a roommate of Hotz’s in the Crypto Castle who is involved in the Bitcoin community, is head of operations. And Elizabeth Stark, another prominent fixture in the Bitcoin startup world, is Comma’s legal advisor. (They’re all wearing Comma.ai shirts when I meet them.) Hotz plans to hire around eight people total in the coming three months. He’s looking for people in machine learning and consumer hardware.
Hotz is also starting work on what will become the company’s first product — a self-driving kit that car owners will be able to purchase directly from Comma to equip their vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities. He hasn’t come close to working out the details of what this product will ultimately look like, but he said it might be a dash cam that plugs into the on-board diagnostics 2 port, which gives access to the car’s internal systems and is found in most cars made after 1996. It will provide cars with ADAS features, like lane-keeping assistance and emergency breaking.
“We believe our killer app is traffic,” Hotz said. “Humans are bad at traffic. We can make something that drives super-humanly smooth through traffic.”
Hotz said he won’t be able to turn every car into a semi-autonomous vehicle. At a minimum, the car will have to have anti-locking brakes and power steering. He’s hoping Comma’s product will work most with the five top-selling cars in the United States. – Aaron Tilley
Sunday 24th April 2016
George Hotz Scores $3.1m Investment for Self-Driving Car Startup Comma.ai
Comma hopes to sell road-worthy consumers car-automation ‘conversion kits’ for less than $1,000
Comma, has received $3.1m from well-known investment firm Andreessen Horowitz to make conversion kits that turn normal cars into semi-self-driving cars. Hotz plans to start selling these by the end of the year for Honda, Acura and potentially other brands.
For many consumers, automated vehicles still feel like science fiction and the province of giant research labs at Google, Uber and General Motors (GM). But there’s increasing evidence that many drivers’ first interaction with a self-driving vehicle will be one engineered by a small startup. Some of these companies are making automated public shuttles, or exploring ways to make existing cars autonomous in certain circumstances.
“We are going to win self-driving cars,” Hotz said in a recent interview. “The bar is low.”
That might seem like bold talk from a twentysomething who quit his day job at an artificial intelligence company last summer. But Hotz isn’t shy of attention. He recently challenged Tesla founder Elon Musk to a race to build the first vehicle that can navigate San Francisco’s tourist-packed Golden Gate Bridge on its own.
“I think we can maybe build better self-driving cars,” Hotz says. “He can build a better rocket.”
George Hotz’s Elon Musk dartboard (Photo credit: Chad McClymonds)
When asked what he would do with his new venture funds, Hotz said he would focus on hiring the best machine-learning programmers he could find. “Who I really want to hire is 20 more copies of me,” he says.
In December, Hotz made a name for himself when he showed Bloomberg Businessweek how he made an Acura drive itself down the highway. Hotz had hacked the car’s onboard computer. He then added a camera and a radar. Suddenly, the vehicle was cruising down Bay Area freeways as Hotz sat in the driver seat, his hands not on the steering wheel.
By the end of the year, Comma wants to sell consumers car-automation conversion kits for less than $1,000. Hotz is tight-lipped about what those will involve, but they will at least require some sort of alterations to a car’s onboard computer and hardware for the car to determine what’s going on around it.
Car automation has become increasingly democratized as much of the hardware behind the technology has fallen in price and the machine-learning techniques have been open-sourced. – Danny Yadron
Friday 30th September 2016
Chris Dixon: In 2 years Everyone Will Use Driverless Cars on Highways
Within ten years, roads will be full of driverless cars.
Maybe within two, depending on where you’re driving.
That’s what Chris Dixon, a partner at prestigious Silicon Valley investment firm Andreessen Horowitz believes.
Dixon has written extensively about the future of autonomous vehicles and invested in a number of startups in the space, from self-flying delivery drones to, a company founded by a young man who built a self-driving car in his garage.
“All of the trends we’ve been observing over the last decade — from cloud computing to cheaper processing — have hit a tipping point,” Dixon says. “This is the core that’s getting people excited about AI, and specifically around autonomous vehicles and autonomous cars.”
It’s also cheaper than ever to build a smart car. Dixon says many driverless car companies use tiny chips made by a publicly-traded company, NVIDIA. NVIDIA’s chips only cost a couple hundred dollars.
“For $200, you could get what 10 years ago was a supercomputer on a little board and put it in your car, and it can run one of these sophisticated deep learning systems,” he says.
Additionally, a lot of the AI for autonomous vehicles is open-sourced, like Google’s product TensorFlow. This allows everyone in the space to create more accurate technology faster, because they can learn from each other’s data sets and build off the findings.
” I bet in two years, it will be the norm that on the highway, you’re not driving half the time or you’ll be using driver assistants heavily,” he says.
“It’s easier on highways and in suburbs,” says Dixon. “So you can imagine pushing a button on your Uber or Lyft app, and depending on the situation and location, an autonomous car comes or a person comes.”
He adds, “When will an Uber roll up without a person in it in New York City? That’s farther away. But I think that’s more like five years away, not 20.”
Dixon likens the promise of self-driving to Henry Ford’s Model T, which was like the iPhone of the time — a real technology game changer. At first, consumer cars seemed impossible — roads weren’t paved and no one knew how to drive cars. But the product was a hit, and everything changed to make way for them. – Alyson Shontell
Wednesday 14th December 2016
Comma.ai Shelves Self-Driving Device From US Market After Regulatory Warning
Got this in the mail today: Special Order Directed to Comma ai. First time I hear from them and they open with threats. No attempt at a dialog.
Would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn’t worth it.
The comma one is cancelled. comma.ai will be exploring other products and markets.
Hello from Shenzhen, China. – George Hotz
Wednesday 14th December 2016
George Hotz Open Sources the Code Behind His Self-Driving Car Project
- I think Telsa’s plan for attacking the whole problem is brilliant and going to succeed. If Telsa is the iOS, we want to be the Android. We’ll be the ones getting the 80%, we’ll be a little bit worse for a bit, but that’s kind of the plan. – George Hotz
Hotz’s Comma.ai is releasing the company’s self-driving software, as well as the plans for the necessary hardware, which Hotz calls Comma Neo. All of this code will be available for free — in fact, it is already on Github.
Hotz framed the self-driving software, called Open Pilot, as an “open source alternative to [Tesla’s] Autopilot” during a press event that was held in a San Francisco house that serves as Comma.ai’s headquarters.
He claimed that the Open Pilot and Comma Neo combination “provides almost all the same functionality as Autopilot 7,” which is the second-most-recent version of Tesla’s self-driving software.
Hotz said that Comma.ai decided to go open source in an effort to sidestep NHTSA as well as the California DMV, the latter of which he said showed up to his house on three separate occasions. “NHTSA only regulates physical products that are sold,” Hotz said. “They do not regulate open source software, which is a whole lot more like speech.”
He went on to say that “if the US government doesn’t like this [project], I’m sure there are plenty of countries that will.”
Hotz compared Open Pilot to Android, and said that it’s really aimed at “hobbyists and researchers and people who love” self-driving technology. “It’s for people who want to push the future forward”. – Sean O’Kane and Lauren Goode