Car Industry

Self-proclaimed Tesla competitor receives big funding push

George Hotz, who proclaimed he could beat Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot system, receives $3.1 million in funding to further flesh out his company, Comma.ai.

Tesla

George Hotz explains levels of vehicular autonomy as part of a Bloomberg Business feature on his homebrew tech.

YouTube screengrab via Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Late last year, Bloomberg ran a feature on George Hotz, the first man to crack the iPhone. He's since moved on from phones to cars, and his stated goal was to create a semi-autonomous system similar to, but better than Tesla's Autopilot. Now, it turns out he's got some decent money behind his efforts.

Re/code reports that Comma.ai received a $3.1 million funding round, led by venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. This money will go toward fleshing out his full-time staff, which currently numbers just four (plus Hotz himself, who's been self-funding the company until now).

The goal is to launch the company with a single product -- an aftermarket kit that equips a vehicle with semi-autonomous technology similar to Autopilot. Starting out, the system would be limited to highways. But perhaps more impressive than this promise is the price target, as Comma.ai wants to sell its kit for less than $1,000.

Of course, the system won't work on just any old car. "The absolute minimum requirement is that the car has to have electronic power steering and [automatic] braking," Hotz told Re/code.

This may also require gaining access to an automaker's application program interface (API), the sets of rules and procedures that govern how certain bits of software and hardware should interact. But even that might not be necessary, according to Hotz: "[T]he world I come from is hacking. This is what I do. Maybe you don't have to provide me your API; maybe we can make it work with just software modifications."