George Hotz, the first person to hack an iPhone, promised to deliver his first add-on capable of transforming a normal car into a self-driving one already by the end of this year.
This could be enough to make Tesla and Google grit their teeth. TechCrunch reported today that Hotz finally revealed his Comma One product that is the first of its kind add-on allowing the car to switch to an autopilot mode, similar to that of Tesla (NASDAQ: Tesla Motors [TSLA]). This is the first product of Hotz's startup Comma.ai.
Hotz says that Comma One will be able to drive a car without any interruption from the side of the driver. In fact, he says that his product is already capable of independently driving the car from "Mountain View to San Francisco" without the driver touching the wheel. The add-on works with the radars that are already installed in the car and comes with a camera that relies on the video data. Hotz notes that Comma One is not turning a vehicle into a fully self-driving car, but neither does Tesla, he says. The add-on is capable of providing the users with the same functionality as Tesla's Autopilot. Yet you don't need to buy a new expensive car to get that.
“It is fully functional. It’s about on par with Tesla Autopilot. The key sensors that we’re getting back is the cam. We’re actually getting back the video, even Tesla isn’t doing that,” he said at TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference.
At the beginning, Comma One will be able to connect only with specific car models but more vehicles will be added later. Hotz announced the gadget's price to be at $999, which, he says, is much more affordable than investing in a whole self-driving vehicle. Comma One's software will be also offered with a monthly subscription rate of $24.
Hotz says that many companies are fast to announce their self-driving car projects while they are far away from actually offering a ready product to customers. Yet his startup can bring this technology to interested customers (a limited number at first) already now and at an affordable price.
He started his company, Comma.ai, only 11 months ago, yet he has already attracted some top artificial intelligence professionals working for him. In the last year's interview with Bloomberg, Hotz showed the journalist around his house and the garage where he was actually developing his self-driving car idea.
Hotz got famous after he hacked an iPhone back in 2007 when he was still in high school. Later, he hacked PlayStation 3 and ended up being sued by Sony for sharing the hacking software. Prior to starting Comma.ai he worked at Google (NASDAQ: Alphabet Class A [GOOGL]), Facebook (NASDAQ: Facebook [FB]) and SpaceX for short periods of time. Hotz was also offered a job at Tesla by Musk himself after they met but the 23-year-old hacker sharply declined it. Forbes mentions that there is a photo of Elon Musk pierced with two darts standing on a bookshelf in Hotz's house.