A famous hacker is working around regulators by making his self-driving car software public

George hotz
George Hotz Comma.ai

Comma.AI, the start-up run by famous hacker George Hotz, has open-sourced its semi-autonomous, Tesla-like driving system after shutting down the project in late October.

The start-up originally announced Comma.AI’s first product, dubbed the Comma One, in September. Hotz claimed that the aftermarket semi-autonomous system would give vehicles capabilities similar to that of Tesla’s Autopilot. However, after receiving a warning from the federal government in October, Hotz ditched production plans. 

The cancellation was prompted by a letter Comma.AI received from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that asked the startup to provide information ensuring the product’s safety or face civil penalties of up to $21,000 a day.

Now Comma.AI has open sourced what it’s calling openpilot, an “alternative to autopilot.” The start-up also made its plans for its semi-autonomous, hardware system called NEOS available.

Comma.AI held a press conference in San Francisco at 10am PT/ 1pm ET about making its work open sourced. Hotz reportedly said that he didn’t give NHTSA or the California DMV advanced warning about releasing the software, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Tim Higgins who is live-tweeting the press conference.

Hotz wrote in an email to Business Insider that Comma.AI has been “communicating with the DMV and NHTSA as appropriate.” He added that Comma.AI is open to working with aftermarket manufacturers.

Hotz is best known as the first person to hack the iPhone when he was 17, allowing people to use the phone on other networks aside from AT&T’s. He also broke into the PlayStation 3 in 2010 when he was 20.

Hotz made headlines for his self-driving car ambitions when Bloomberg published a lengthy feature about him building a self-driving car in his garage last December. The article mentioned an email between Hotz and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, where Musk offered Hotz a “multimillion-dollar bonus” to build the product in-house.

Musk wrote in a blog post that the Bloomberg article was inaccurate and that Tesla found it “extremely unlikely” a single person lacking engineering validation capabilities would be able to produce an autonomous driving system that could be deployed on production vehicles.

You can view NHTSA’s October letter to Hotz below:

2016-10-27 Special Order Directed to Comma.ai by Anonymous u1dPhdl on Scribd

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