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Super Hacker George Hotz: I Can Make Your Car Drive Itself for Under $1,000

Comma.ai aims to bring plug-and-play autonomy to the masses.

(Page 3 of 12)

Monticello: Before you started Comma.ai, which is your current company, you gave an infamous interview to a Bloomberg reporter, where you took the reporter on a ride in this self-driving car that you had worked on for a month, and you just got to work that morning. So are you crazy, or, how did you know that you weren't going to die when you brought that out onto the road?

Hotz: Well, so it's the same safety model that we have today. The safety works like this, it's two-fold. One, the second you touch either the gas or the breaks, the system just stops doing anything, right? So you always have that, that user override.

But the other one, that you even need more than this, you need to make sure that the car's never going to do anything so quickly that you can't respond, and the way you deal with this is torque limits.

It's never going to go like that. It can't. It can't. There's hard limits preventing that, alright? And actually, I didn't even write them. I'm using the hard limits that were built in to the car.

Monticello: Gotcha. So the car has its sort of, own built in system where the power steering, which is mostly electric now, not hydraulic, will not be able to jerk it in front a truck or something like that.

Hotz: Exactly.

Comma's first consumer product is an app called Chiffr, which turns your phone into a dashcam and uses its GPS and accelerometer. Now the company is launching Panda, an open source, $88 dongle that plugs into your car, links it to your phone, and puts out fine-grain detail about every aspect of your drive.

Hotz: You can actually use a Panda as the bridge between OpenPilot, which is the software that'll drive your car, and the car itself. Panda is a universal car interface. So when it's used by Chffr, it's read only, but when it's used by OpenPilot, it's connected over USB and it can actually drive your car.

Monticello: Gotcha, Okay. So that's what taps you into the car's system so you can move the steering wheel ...

Hotz: Yeah.

Monticello: ... Okay. And so, what kind of cars ... can I use this on my '89 Volvo or like, do I need a newer car?

Hotz: For Chffr you'll get something from every car manufactured after 1996. Now, if you want to get the fancy self-driving stuff, well, there's only a few cars that OpenPilot supports right now. We're going to start getting a lot more ... like I said, I want ... In 2018, I want to support the majority of the top 20 cars sold in America.

Monticello: And right now is there a baseline of cars that have, drive by wire, brake by wire, gas by wire, that you can tap into?

Hotz: So we support, it's Hondas and Acuras right now. We just bought a Toyota Prius, we're going to be doing all the Toyotas this year. A user, one of our users has ported it to the Chevy Volt. We have a bounty program. As soon as he cleans up the code a little bit and merges it in, we're going to pay him out $10,000. We have a bounty up for the Ford Fusion for somebody to do that. We have a bounty for the Tesla Model S, BMW i3. We want to support them all.

Monticello: Gotcha. So you're kind of hacking into the car makers' systems, essentially. In order to-

Hotz: I wouldn't think it about it like that. You're certainly not hacking into anybody's systems, because it's your car, right? You're not hacking. You're not changing the firmware, you're not jailbreaking. You're just finding ... every car has a different API to get to the steering wheel, the gas, and the brakes. So you know, it's about finding the API's in the new cars.

Monticello: But the car makers, they don't want you to be able to have access to that, right?

Hotz: They don't care. Care manufacturers sell cars, right? What do they care?

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  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    New AI Enables Cheap Autonomous Vehicles; European Pedestrians Hardest Hit

  • Citizen X - #6||

    So, the next season of Silicon Valley has its antagonist.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    [car sets off on new path; later GPS analysis shows route in shape of a dick]

  • KBeckman||

    I would think having the ability to use any phone would be a huge security risk. They can fix their own software, but they can't fix the phone's software.

  • SIV||

    At least this way liability will lie with the (non)-operator.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Humorous also to picture Trooper Tiller of Seneca trying to force the thing to blow into the breathalyzer. I personally hope the thing works like a robocab in a Robert Heinlein novel. If prohibitionist asset-forfeiture parasites made it unsafe to drive and GM and Ford go belly up, they've got Henry Ford and all subsequent tea-totalitarian prohibitionists to thank.

  • Paloma||

    Sign me up.

  • ||

    I'm definitely down with the clarity of vision he has re: Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook.

  • Rich||

    Driving is just what people do when they drive, and in order to really get access to the full diverse spectrum of what driving is, you need a huge crowdsourced database, and I mean, that's what we're building. Then we'll just learn what it means to drive from people who actually drive."

    "Including the third of the driving population that texts while driving."

  • bailers77||

    I wouldn't trust this guy to automate my toilet flushing,

  • markm23||

    A hacker makes something work at least once. An engineer makes it work every time. What this guy is designing is a driverless car that works well enough that the operator stops paying attention to the road, but that doesn't work every time.

  • ||

    Human drivers don't work every time, hence all the accidents all day every day. All driverless cars need to do is be a little bit better at it.

    Driverless cars will still crash, flip over, drive in lakes and whatnot. Just slightly less than cars driven by humans so that the situation makes an insurance company a little bit more money.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    I'm a big fan of capitalism, but you gotta avoid rent seeking.

    ...said the guy immediately after gushing about Elon Musk and Tesla.

  • Brendan||

    The only thing I trust less than Elon Musk types are Mark Zuckerberg and this guy types.

    The only thing worse than "I am going to save the world with my super awesome, slick, sleek invention" are these functioning autistics.

    I guess if your car doesn't have built in cameras, automatic parking equipment, and distance sensors, you're SOL.

    I also don't trust that distance sensors, radar, and cameras designed for short range functions and built to be used as supplemental systems are good enough to be used as the primary inputs for a system that will drive my car for me.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    The correct term is "autist", and we do not appreciate being typecast as the likes of Zuckerberg.

  • ||

    I'd say you underestimate how bad people are at driving cars. Have you driven a car and looked around? Improving even one side of the equation is still an improvement.

    Also, what he's talking about is cars with adaptive cruise control, and that is designed to keep the car at a certain distance from a car in front using acceleration and brakes at speeds up to 160km/h. At least the braking definitely has to work, since if the car fails to brake there would be no second chance for the driver. And really, braking is the one that matters.

  • Jayburd||

    I thought we were supposed to have self-flying cars by now.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Nope, still stuck with manual flight for now.

  • mockmock||

    Reading this I'm wondering if once you get beyond a certain coding complexity, and lines thereof, if any software is "hack" proof.

    Certainly the first country to get a powerful AI will be able, if they maliciously wish, to hack into another country's "smart objects" banking/military and direct them to do whatever they want.

    The End.

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  • Endru||

    Why companies are investing too much money in one Self-driving car. Why they are not investing self-driving flying car.
    N.B: My personal car blog obd2scanners

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