George Hotz is taking on Elon Musk head-on in the self-driving car technology race. So far, he and his startup are winning. Hotz is no stranger to the technology scene, he is best known for being a hacker. He was the first person to unlock the iPhone, allowing it to be used with other carriers. He is also known for being the first person to jailbreak the PlayStation 3 and subsequently being sued by Sony for doing so. Now, Hotz is known for taking on tech giant Elon Musk at attempting to be the first person to make a fully self-driving car.
Is comma.ai the next big car technology company?
Hotz and his company, comma.ai, have been pioneering new applications and hardware for cars. Together, they have created Panda, an ODB2 reader that connects to your smartphone. Hotz and his company have also more recently created a development kit, Giraffe, to make applications, hardware, and even Panda to interact deeper with the connected vehicle’s computers. The best part of all of these hardware devices? It’s all open source!
The creme de la creme for comma.ai was their self-driving augmentation, the Comma One. the Comma One was an augment to your vehicle that utilized the existing sensors. Along with its complementary app, OpenPilot it learned to drive through machine learning. The Comma One learned through a network of over 1,000+ hours of peer driving. In other words, the device learns how to drive based on the technique of others. It learned to drive like a human, something other self-driving car companies do not do.
Unfortunately, when there is innovation, big government usually intervenes. For Hotz, that became the case when the NHTSA (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration) sent him and his company a letter demanding that they answer 15 questions related to the device before they can officially release it. Instead, Hotz decided to nix the project and make it completely open source. OpenPilot and the CAD files required to make the case for OpenPilot are freely available on their website and GitHub repository.
Even though Comma One was nixed, comma.ai has a bright future
Since the Comma One was nixed, comma.ai have been working tirelessly promoting and engineering OpenPilot. They have even started a new project, an open source dashcam that runs on your smartphone. It’s similar to the Comma One in that regard. Hotz and his company are steadily growing and supporting their community greatly. Hotz wants to change the world and make an impact on technology, he is surely doing that and he is doing it correctly. I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens with comma.ai. They have to be the most interesting startup in Silicon Valley of all of 2017.