At this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF, PlayStation and iPhone hacker George Hotz showed us the Comma One, a car add-on kit that will tap into a car’s existing hardware and give it an autonomous driving setting.
At the end of 2015, Hotz, the first guy to hack an iPhone, had modified an Acura ILX so that it had autonomous driving capabilities that rivaled Tesla’s autopilot. Now the CEO of his automotive artificial intelligence startup, Comma.ai, Hotz says that Comma One customers can expect to take delivery by the end of 2016.
The Comma One will cost $999, according to TechCrunch, with a $24 monthly subscription fee for its software. Hotz says that the kit will be released in very limited numbers to select Honda and Acura ILX models with lane keeping assist systems and built-in front radars in the Bay Area. Once installed in the place of a rearview mirror, customers will be able to drive from “Mountain View to San Francisco without touching the wheel.”
This is not meant to turn your car into a fully autonomous vehicle. Hotz is careful to note that. Rather, “it’s a fancy cruise control.” Drivers still need to stay vigilant. They don’t have to touch anything until they feel that they need to, but they can’t just kick it and read a newspaper while the car is driving either.
Part of how Comma.ai collects data is through two apps where users can upload dashcam videos of them driving so that the system can aggregate everything and learn how to behave on the road. What makes the Comma One interesting is that it has a front-facing camera that will also collect driving data as it’s being used.
It’s a fascinating idea, because currently, how would anyone obtain a car with autonomous driving capabilities short of actually buying a new car? Hotz’s kit is a cheap alternative, although it’s still in very early stages of development. Hotz says that he’s not just limiting sales to private owners, he’ll sell to dealers, too. Anybody, really.
If Comma One is going to constantly feed data to Comma.ai, I’d also like to know how Hotz plans on doing that. Will it rely on Wi-Fi? On mobile data? And after a customer purchases the kit, how do they mount it? How would they get the system to “talk” to the car’s? Also, if it’s to take the same place as a rearview mirror, does that mean that a driver cannot easily replace the mirror if they wish to take control of the car again?
I have reached out to George Hotz with these questions and will update if I hear back.
In the meantime, check out Hotz’s interview with TechCrunch.