A New Device from Comma.ai Could Make your Car Semi-Autonomous
Hacker extraordinaire George Hotz came through on his promiseby Kirby Garlitos, on
George “Geohot” Hotz has taken a big step in adding to his legend with the unveiling of the Comma One, an aftermarket device that turns modern day cars into semi-autonomous driving vehicles. The much-talked about product launch took place at the recently held TechCrunch Disrupt SF event where Hotz unveiled the first official product of his automotive artificial intelligence startup company, Comma.ai.
For those who aren’t familiar with Hotz, a brief background is in order. He first rose to infamy a decade ago for being the first hacker to successfully “jail break” the iPhone, allowing the phone to be used by all telecom carriers. He also was involved in a similar hacking episode of the Sony Playstation 3 that culminated with Sony suing him. Fast forward to this year and Hotz is now the founder of Comma.ai, a startup that only came to life in October 2015. In a space of a year, Hotz has not only secured investments from venture capital firms – VC firm Andreessen Horowitz shelled out $3.1 million for the company in April 2016 – but he has also lived up to his promise of introducing an affordable plug-and-play kit designed to turn regular vehicles into semi-autonomous driving cars.
Hotz does point out that the Comma One kit isn’t meant to turn cars into complete self-driving vehicles, but it functions in a similar way to Tesla’s Autopilot system in the sense that drivers can put the driving function of the car to the car itself with minimal assistance. The product only costs $999 and can be shipped straight into a buyer’s home. The system does come with a $24 monthly subscription to use Comma.ai’s software.
The price point is interesting because unlike Tesla’s Autopilot system, it doesn’t carry a lot of sensors and mostly relies on the built-in front radars of today’s cars. It also has a built-in camera that works in concert with the car’s radars in acquiring data, which are then translated into certain actions to the car’s pedals and steering.
For now, Comma One does not have the capacity to be used by just about any car. According to the company, only Honda and Acura models fitted with lane keeping assist will be able to use the technology. But as its features are sharpened and become more refined, Hotz is confident that the Comma One will grow to the point that it becomes compatible with a host of other brands and their respective models.
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Same autonomous function at a fraction of the cost
Love him or hate him, George Hotz deserves a lot of credit for what he has accomplished in short order. It’s not that he was able to develop a technology that he says is on par with Tesla’s Autopilot system; it’s that he was able to develop that technology with a fraction of the resources that a lot of automakers have today. That in itself is an accomplishment of the highest order and Hotz deserves credit for that.
Granted, history dictates that when you’re presented with a technology that claims to be as good as what the industry has yet comes at a ridiculously cheap price, it’s best to tread on that water carefully. Hotz himself admitted that the Comma One is still in its embryonic stage and as time goes by, it’s going to be updated to be better and more efficient than what it is today.
But the product itself is probably not as important, at least in this day and age, than the realization that somebody was able to come up with a technology that a lot of today’s biggest automakers are still developing. Can you imagine what Hotz can come up with if he had the backing of a Toyota or a Volkswagen? The fact that he was still working out of his garage as recently as April 2016 speaks to his unique mind and his otherworldly talent.
I’d like to see Comma.ai succeed in the short and long-term. It’s obviously off to a very promising start and if Hotz and his team remain true to the company’s mission of being an innovator of the highest order, I think this once notorious hacker is destined for big things in the future.
Source: Tech Crunch