While companies like Google, Tesla, and Mercedes are spending millions on research and development of self-driving cars, a 26-year-old hacker from San Francisco believes he might just have nailed the technology all on his own. George Hotz, previously known for his legendary iPhone jailbreaking skills, says he has developed autonomous car technology that actually works. What’s more, the technology only costs a few thousand dollars, and can be implemented on any car in the world.
Hotz, who at age 17 became the first person in the world to unlock an iPhone, also hacked a Sony Playstation 3 a few years later. He’s worked briefly at Google, SpaceX, and Facebook, but after studying artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University, he decided to work on his own self-driving car technology. Once perfected, he plans to sell the system directly to customers through his startup, comma.ai.
Photo: Peter Bohler/Bloomberg Business
To develop the technology, Hotz used his 2016 Acura ILX as a test platform. Inside, he assembled a 21.5-inch screen on the dash, a mini computer running Linux, GPS sensors built into the glove compartment, and cameras mounted around the car. But what truly sets Hotz’s technology apart is the custom software he built that helps the hardware ‘learn’ to drive intuitively, like a human. Unlike other self-driving cars, Hotz’s approach isn’t based around rigid “if this happens, do this” type rules. Instead, the computer is fed with data on how humans drive cars.