General Motors (AI)

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

 

Saturday 18th June 2016

Elon Musk: We Are Less Than Two Years From Complete Car Autonomy

The Tesla CEO spoke at the Code Conference and predicted that we’re closer to self-driving cars than anybody thinks.

“I think we are less than two years away from complete autonomy, safer than humans, but regulations should take at least another year,” Musk said.

While many auto and tech companies–from Google to Uber and GM to Lyft and Apple to Ford–are researching and testing autonomous vehicles, Tesla seems on the verge of announcing that its Model 3 consumer sedan will have full self-driving capabilities.

Musk did not confirm that feature, but when asked multiple times on stage, he replied that there would be another Tesla event later in the year in which he would have more details.

The only thing he would say is that Tesla would do “the obvious thing”–seemingly a reference to a prior comment he made about autonomous driving being a must have feature for future vehicles. – Brian Soloman

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