George Hotz or “Geohot,” the man famous for delivering the world’s first iPhone jailbreak, made headlines again late last year after building his own self-driving car using off the shelf components. Now he has big ambitions for his new technology.
In an interview with Forbes, Hotz has revealed that his plan is to take on Google and Tesla by developing a product that will allow car owners to turn existing vehicles into autonomous vehicles — and source say he’s received major investment.
Hotz’s project has come a long way in just a few months. What was a personal project is now a real company called Comma, and Hotz has recruited others who can help turn is dream into a reality.
They include Yunus Saatchi, chief maching learning officer at Comma, who has a PhD in artificial intelligence and worked with Hotz at Vicarious; Jake Smith, who is head of operations; and Elizabeth Stark, a prominent figure in the Bitcoin world, who is legal advisor.
Hotz is being taken seriously by others, too. Sources say Comma has secured major investment from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz that values the company at $20 million, while the CEOs of Delphi, a car parts supplier, and NVIDIA have been to visit the Comma office.
“That visit from Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also brought with it $30,000 worth of Nvidia GPUs,” according to Forbes.
Comma’s office still resides in the basement of Hotz’s “Cryto Castle,” a three-story house in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill. The company is yet to put together a prototype product, but Hotz is confident his company will have something to release by the end of the year.
In the meantime, Comma needs all the data it can get its hands on. Its technology is being trained to act like humans through machine learning, and while Hotz admits that it’s not yet as good as the tech offered by Mobileye, he’s adamant it will be better.
Hotz says he did strike a deal with Tesla founder Elon Musk. Apparently, Musk agreed to switch to Comma’s technology if the company could build a better self-driving system. However, Hotz claims Musk tried to sneak a get out clause into the contract, and he wasn’t happy with that.
But Hotz is optimistic that Musk will want Comma’s technology one day.
“I’m a big fan of Tesla and I’m a big fan of Elon Musk when it really comes down to it,” he said. “He’s doing great things. I think that maybe in a year he’ll come around and say, ‘Those Comma guys really are good,’ and we’ll charge him double.”
Tesla, on the other hand, believes it is “extremely unlikely that a single person or even a small company that lacks extensive engineering validation capability will be able to produce an autonomous driving system that can be deployed to production vehicles,” it said in a statement.
That won’t stop Comma. The mission is to build a system that can be retrofitted into vehicles with an ODB II diagnostics port — that’s almost all vehicles build after 1996 — that adds self-driving capabilities.
Hotz doesn’t know what that system will look like yet, but he’s confident Comma can build it.
To read the full interview with Hotz — which we highly recommend you check out — follow the link below.