iPhone and PlayStation hacker George Hotz showed off the Comma One at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF, a device meant to be an affordable car add-on kit that could access a car’s existing hardware and give it autonomous driving capabilities. After a letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, however, Hotz is pulling the plug on his kit.
In a letter dated from yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote to Hotz, expressing concern that the Comma One would jeopardize the safety of its users and customers. From the letter:
We strongly encourage you to delay selling or deploying your product on the public roadways and until you can ensure it safe. It is insufficient to assert, as you do, that your product “does not remove any of the driver’s responsibilities from the task of driving.”
As you are undoubtedly aware, there is a high likelihood that some drivers will use your product in a manner that exceeds its intended purpose...We also have concerns regarding how your product will be integrated into the vehicle’s existing safety systems. Installation of your product could adversely affect the performance of the vehicle’s safety systems, or otherwise render the vehicle unsafe.
NHTSA isn’t outright forbidding Hotz from advancing the Comma One project, but it is requiring him to submit information about his product. He has until November 10 to do so, or else he could be fined up to $21,000 per day.
The information demanded of Hotz includes the installation process, how the driver assistance would work, a copy of the user instructions, a description of the conditions that the car would be able to operate safely while equipped with Comma One and what steps Comma.ai has taken to ensure safe operation.
Rather than comply, Hotz instead chose to terminate the entire program. In a tweet, Hotz said he didn’t want to “deal with” regulators and lawyers.
The Comma One was slated to be a kit released in very limited numbers and, at first, restricted only to select Honda and Acura ILX models with lane keeping assist systems and built-in front radars in the Bay Area. Hotz called it more “fancy cruise control” than a full autonomous system. It also had a front-facing camera that gathered data while in use.
We’ve reached out to Hotz for comment and will update if we hear more.