George Hotz, infamous iPhone and PlayStation hacker turned CEO of ‘comma.ai’, promised to deliver an aftermarket product capable of advanced driver assist features comparable to Tesla’s Autopilot, but for a fraction of the price and on existing vehicles.
He officially launched the device, comma one, last month for the price of $999, but now, only weeks later, he announces that the product is cancelled after he received a letter of requests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In the document (embedded below), NHTSA is not outright asking Hotz to stop his comma one project, but the federal agency “strongly encourages” him to delay selling the products and makes a series of requests for information.
If he doesn’t comply to the request by November 10, he will be subject to civil penalties of up to $21,000 per day.
The information requested by NHTSA range from details of the system installation, operations and safety measures, to steps taken by the company for safety compliance.
Hotz decided to just cancel the comma one and explore other markets than the US, as well as other products. Interestingly, the Silicon Valley-based engineer confirmed the decision from China:
The news of the shutdown of the project comes after Hotz grew the startup from just him working alone in his garage to a VC-backed company. It was revealed earlier this year that the startup secured funding from high-profile VC firm Andreessen Horowitz with a $3 million investment — potentially bringing the startup’s valuation to $20 million.
Hotz’s project caught the industry’s attention after he released an email conversation he had with Elon Musk in which Tesla’s CEO offered him a contract with a “multimillion-dollar bonus” for him to build a new Autopilot system for Tesla.
Hotz refused the offer and said that he could build a self-driving car system himself. He then reportedly made a bet with Musk that his system, which he installed in an Acura, will beat a Tesla Model S with Autopilot on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. At the time (Dec 2015), the hacker said that he would release a video of the challenge “in a few months”.
The challenge was later updated to navigating the Golden Gate Bridge.
Here’s the document from NHTSA in full: