Elon Musk offered a “multimillion-dollar bonus” for Geohot to build a “Mobileye crushing” Autopilot system for Tesla

geohot driverless car

Tesla is currently using a hardware suite of sensors from Mobileye to get the input needed for its Autopilot system to control the Model S on highways and under some specific road conditions. But as it is often the case with Tesla (like for its seats), the company is looking to discontinue Mobileye’s system in favor of bringing it in-house, according to an email exchange between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and George Hotz, a software engineer mainly known for being the first person to jailbreak the iPhone.

George Hotz, also known as Geohot, hacked the iPhone in 2007 while he was still in high school. A few years later, he made a similar exploit by hacking the PlayStation and releasing his code online, which resulted in a lawsuit from Sony.

Since then, Hotz had stints at several high-profile tech companies such as Google, Facebook, SpaceX and most recently at the AI firm Vicarious at which he worked as a researcher until last July according to his LinkedIn profile.

Now we learn that Hotz was approached by Tesla to help develop the company’s Autopilot system, according to a video released today by Bloomberg (see below).

Hotz was apparently not a fan of Mobileye’s system and thought he could build a better one by himself. According to Bloomberg, Musk wanted to contract Hotz to develop the system for Tesla or to simply work for the company:

“Frankly, I think you should just work at Tesla. I’m happy to work out a multimillion-dollar bonus with a longer time horizon that pays out as soon as we discontinue Mobileye.”

Hotz replied:

“I appreciate the offer. but like I’ve said, I’m not looking for a job. I’ll ping you when I crush Mobileye.”

Musk answered with his well-known one-word email “OK”.

The now 26-year old hacker decided to found his own company, comma.ai, to develop level 3 autonomous driving systems, which translate into about 99% self-driving.

He installed the first version of its system on a 2016 Acura ILX. He equipped the vehicle with an off the shelf Dell 21.5 inch 1080P display, which he points out is bigger than Tesla’s 17 inch display in the Model S but lacks capacitive touch.

Although Hotz’s system currently relies on a LIDAR sensor, he says that the commercial version of the product will use 6 smartphone cameras costing approximately $13 each. This approach is in-line with Tesla’s since Musk recently said that LIDAR sensors are not necessary for fully autonomous vehicles.

Tesla current hardware suite consists of a forward-looking camera, a radar, and 360 degree sonar sensors. Its second generation Autopilot hardware suite from Mobileye is rumored to rely more heavily on cameras.

Hotz aims at selling its self-driving package for about $1,000. Tesla equipped each of its vehicle with the Autopilot hardware, but it sells the “Autopilot Convenience Features” for $2,500.

On the software side, it’s not entirely clear how Hotz’s system differ from Tesla’s, but it appears to rely more heavily on machine learning. Tesla’s system is known to be self-improving, but Hotz’s comma.ai system aims at driving like a human as much as possible. For example, after the car had monitored 10 hours of driving, he says it will drive like a person who has been driving for only 10 hours.

Update: Musk and Tesla responded to the claims made by Hotz and Bloomberg – Tesla corrects claims made by Geohot/Bloomberg about the Autopilot and Mobileye

Update 2: Following this incident, we published several reports on Tesla hiring top SoC talent for the Autopilot program including our exclusive report that Tesla hired legendary chip architect Jim Keller from AMD as new “Vice-President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering”, andPeter Bannon followed him at Tesla just a few weeks later and finally our report on Tesla poaching a team of high-profile chip architects and executives from AMD to develop the next generation Autopilot under Keller’s leadership.

Here’s the video of Hotz showing his car to Ashley Vance, a Bloomberg journalist and recent author of Musk’s biography:

Featured image: Bloomberg by Peter Bohler

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Comments

  1. BEP - 7 years ago

    By looking at what this guy says and how he says it, I think he’s very good at what he’s doing but he’s a jerk. Or, in other words: he’s a jerk but he’s very good at what he’s doing.

    • Waha - 7 years ago

      are you 12 or 70?

      • BEP - 7 years ago

        Yes.

  2. Geocities - 7 years ago

    .. and E Musk isn’t … You need to be a ‘jerk’ (aka Ego) in order to succeed

  3. Tim K A Cheah - 7 years ago

    I AM VERY IMPRESSED WITH GEORGE HOTZ’S ACHIEVEMENTS AND YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT AS LONG AS HE CAN PRE-PROGRAM HIS AUTONOMOUS CAR TO AVOID AND NOT HITTING ANYTHING NOR RUN OFF A CLIFF, HE HAS THE CORRECT AND RIGHT WAY IN GETTING THE CAR’S AI DEEP LEARNING PROGRAM TO LEARN TO DRIVE TO MIMIC, IMITATE AND EMULATE A HUMAN DRIVER AND IN TIME THAT IT CAN HANDLE ANY SITUATION INDEPENDENTLY LIKE HE DID OR HE WILL DO AS A LICENSED DRIVER AND EVENTUALLY BETTER THAN ANY HUMAN DRIVER CAN BE BECAUSE THE AUTONOMOUS DRIVING PROGRAM IS 100% ALERT AND CONTINUOUSLY LEARNING AND SELF-IMPROVING ALL THE TIME WHEREAS HUMAN DRIVER NEEDED TO TAKE BREAKS EVERY 2 TO 3 HOURS OF DRIVING TO REFRESH OR REST OK?
    ANOTHER INTERESTING TOPIC THAT INTERESTS ME MOST IS THAT GEOHOT IS GREAT AT BOTH HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE AND WE HAVE HEARD OF EFFECTIVE REGENERATIVE BRAKING SYSTEM IN BEV THAT CAN RECOVER REUSABLE ELECTRIC POWER FOR EXTENDING BEV’S RANGE BUT THERE IS STILL NO TESTED AND PROVEN REGENERATIVE SUSPENSION SYSTEM FOR THE EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT RECOVERY OF REUSABLE ELECTRICAL POWER EFFECTIVELY TO EXTEND THE BEV’S RANGE SO WE NEEDED SOMEONE LIKE GEOHOT TO EFFICIENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY CREATE ONE HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE SYSTEM PACKAGE (USING BOTH HARDWARE AND AI DEEP LEARNING PROGRAM) THAT CAN LEARN TO MAXIMIZE THE ENHANCEMENT OF THE ELECTRIC POWER RECOVERY EFFECTIVELY IN A REGENERATIVE SUSPENSION SYSTEM IN ORDER TO INCREASE BEV’S RANGE SUBSTANTIALLY WITHOUT INCREASING THE BATTERY’S SIZE AND CAPACITY RIGHT NOW OK.

    • Darren - 7 years ago

      Grammar Police here, how do you expect anyone to read that lot?. It’s all in CAPS and you’ve one full-stop. I bet you’re a fantastic conversationalist at parties! :).

      Your reasoning is also a little simplistic and naive. There’s a lot more to making an autonomous vehicle than hitting someone or running off a cliff – but granted these are very important pre-requisites. Autonomous cars need to factor road speed, road condition, weather condition, moving and static objects including both people and animals – either directly in their path or adjacent the route. That list is certainly not exhaustive. The other little detail that needs to be considered is redundancy i.e. what happens when a sensor or sensors fail, what happens if the software malfunctions or crashes / restarts?. Every autonomous system, to be successful, requires a certain degree of redundancy built-in and then a fail-safe so that in the event that the car is no longer able to perform its task safely it should either slowly pull off the road and come to a stop or, if that’s not possible, alert the driver and allow immediate manual control. For this reason I see it being a good while before autonomous cars are permitted on roads without a qualified driver able and ready to take control at a moment’s notice.

      Either way though exciting times ahead and I welcome these technological advances from whoever is able to deliver a safe and reliable autonomous system. Right now Tesla seem to be leading the pack so my money is on them.

      • Tim K A Cheah - 7 years ago

        REGRET MY EYESIGHT IS POOR AND THIS’ THE ONLY WAY I CAN READ WHAT I TYPED TO AVOID TYPO ERRORS,
        BUT TRULY HOW MANY COULD COMMAND THE MULTI MILLION BONUS FROM ELON MUSK IF GEORGE HOTZ (GEOHOT) HASN’T THAT SOMETHING SPECIAL TO COMMAND SUCH SPECIAL REWARDS BUT REFUSED THEN HE WENT INDEPENDENTLY TO DEVELOP HIS OWN AUTONOMOUS SELF DRIVING CAR TECHNOLOGY TO BEAT MOBILEYE’S HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE WITH HIS OWN SELF DRIVING TECHNOLOGY PACKAGE WITH THE OFF THE SHELF HARDWARE COMPONENTS AND USING HIS OWN VERSION OF AI SELF LEARNING TECHNOLOGY THAT WILL SELF IMPROVE ITS OWN SELF DRIVING SKILLS FROM REAL WORLD DRIVING AND WITH INTERACTIONS WITH NEIGHBORING VEHICLES ON THE ROADS DETECTED BY ITS CAMERAS AND SENSORS GOING FORWARD OK!!!

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