When George Hotz, the reverse-engineering whiz kid who first cracked the iPhone, said his new company was going to produce self-driving retrofit kits for non-autonomous vehicles, I believed him. When he said it would cost under $1,000, I took it with a grain of salt. Now that he's said it's arriving by year's end, I'm buying stock in Morton's.
During an interview with Bloomberg, Hotz said, "I'm not going to say exactly how we're going to [provide this tech to the public], but I do promise, by the end of the year, for under $1,000, you will be able to buy a self-driving car." Of course, he doesn't mean the whole car, just the kit being sold through his company, Comma.ai.
Even loftier is his intent on making this retrofit kit user-installable. Yes, he's saying that some very finely tuned equipment -- including a camera -- can be mounted up by any old Tom, Dick or Harry. Hotz claims that part can be dealt with on his end, by including programming that forces the system to adapt to its installation.
And thus, the countdown to 2017 begins. With a recent round of funding from a16z, Comma.ai can start growing beyond its current team of four, and it very well could deliver on all its promises. However, we doubt that the joystick and LCARS-style "Engage" button from Hotz's personal Acura ILX will come along for the ride.