In order to circumvent the regulations imposed by NHTSA on his aftermarket driver assist device, the ‘comma one’, George ‘geohot’ Hotz announced that his startup is releasing a new version of the product, ‘comma neo’ (an anagram for one), for free as an open-source platform.
Hotz, who describes the capabilities of the system as only matched by Tesla’s Autopilot, says that NHTSA’s regulations only apply to products for sales and that way, comma.ai can still get its product out there and now focus on what was described as a “pivot” to helping other companies develop autonomous driving systems and get more data for fleet-learning to improve its own platform.
In an interview on Bloomberg TV (embedded below), Hotz explained in more details what prompt the cancellation of the ‘comma one’ in NHTSA’s information inquiry with a $21,000 per day penalty attached. He said that the biggest issue was that he had only 10 days to provide them with a user manual under oath for a product that he wasn’t selling yet.
He seems confident that the open-sourcing of the product should free him from the regulators and he added that he is already seeing interest from Tesla owners who own pre-Autopilot Model S sedans and want to retrofit their car with comma.ai’s platform.
When asked to compare his platform to Tesla’s Autopilot, Hotz said that it is better than the first generation Autopilot, but that the new generation announced last month is “a bit better” than his system. He explained why:
“Autopilot is a bit better because one of the key things they are doing is fleet-learning. All of their Autopilot cars are helping to train all the other Autopilot cars.”
As we recently reported, that added up to 1.3 billion miles of data last month. Hotz then explained that he hopes he will also be able to get more data through open-sourcing the platform and people connecting to his network for fleet-learning.
Hotz applauded Tesla’s incremental approach to autonomous driving and said that he believes they will succeed – adding that if Tesla is “the iOS of self-driving”, they want to be Android.
He seems to have warmed up to Elon Musk following a little feud after refusing his offer to come work for Tesla. He even modified his ‘FU ELON’ license plate on his test car:
comma.ai’s comma neo software platform is available for download under the open source MIT License on the startup’s Github site, along with hardware plan for the device itself, which can be partly 3D printed and attached to an Android phone.
Here’s his interview with Bloomberg: