You probably know George Hotz, even if it’s unwittingly, for his work unlocking the first iPhone all the way back in 2007.
Last year he showed off some impressive technology he’d built on his own to retrofit a bog-standard car to self-drive – in his own garage – using neural networks and off the shelf hardware.
It was an innocent 2016 Acura ILX, rigged up with a laser radar (lidar) and his own custom-made software to take on Tesla’s autopilot feature.
Now, just a few weeks on, Hotz has landed $3.1 million in funding for his company, Comma.ai according to Recode.
The company is working on bringing self-driving to the masses with an aftermarket kit for modern cars that will cost “under $1,000.”
Hotz told Recode that he’s planning to approach automakers and ask them for access to their APIs, but would consider modifying software if they won’t comply.
Chris Dixon, a partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said on Medium that he saw Hotz’s car for himself and “came away convinced that George’s system is a textbook example of the “WhatsApp effect” happening to AI.”
How Comma.ai’s hardware works, or if it’s even much more than what was shown off in Bloomberg’s preview, is unclear, but if it’s able to be adapted for the masses it could have huge implications.
If successful, self-driving cars might get here sooner than we think, because any car could learn new tricks – which would be great news for everyone, though perhaps not for jobs that rely on driving places.