George Hotz (aka geohot) was one of the headliners at this year’s Autonomy conference in Paris. He didn’t disappoint, even though he apparently had to skip flying over (at the last minute) and do the presentation and Q&A via Skype.
We were already up to date with what comma.ai was working on — aftermarket self-driving vehicle tools for specific cars — but we got much more information, commentary, and a new product announcement in the Paris presentation.
I’ll come back to the new product in a minute, but what was particularly fascinating to me were a couple of George’s comments on automaker approaches to self-driving tech, his answer to my question/clarification about that (in particular, regarding GM’s approach and the Chevy Bolt’s capability to receive OTA updates), and a couple of comments geohot happened to drop about Tesla (where he was reportedly on the verge of leading the self-driving team — underneath Elon Musk, of course — after a stint working at SpaceX).
Regarding major automakers, Mr. Georgey Hotz claimed that they have a very limited, poor approach to self-driving tech. The computer processing is too poor, the over-the-air update capability is nearly nonexistent, and the limited vision seems to be inviting corporate disaster. Perhaps the pessimistic take on what they are doing is incorrect and misplaced, or perhaps geohot nailed it. Have a watch and chime in with your own perspective (if you have one) in the comments below.
Regarding Tesla, George basically just had good things to say. Given his controversial and critical nature, that was a bit of a surprise. Apparently, he has great respect for what Tesla is doing on the self-driving front and sees it sort of like the Apple of this new market. He dropped note of the “Tesla Mothership,” a VPN that all of the Tesla Autopilot-equipped cars report back to. In other words, it is apparently a Tesla command center of sorts that collects information from Tesla’s self-driving suites, integrates the data, and eventually creates improvements to the software that is deployed in Tesla cars. (For more on this overall topic, see: Tesla Has Strong Advantages In Race To Self-Driving Cars.)
Getting to the new product announcement — the introduction of EON Dashcam DevKit — the comma.ai team put a summary on Medium an hour after geohot’s presentation to the crowd in Paris. It’s an integrated “dashcam” that includes chffrplus, Waze, and Spotify.
“EON and chffrplus integrate seamlessly into the rest of the comma.ai ecosystem. Your drives are uploaded to the cloud, where you can view them from your iOS or Android phone in chffr. EON can also connect over USB to panda to log all the sensors from your car, which you can then explore in chffr or cabana,” the comma-ai article states.
“Assuming you have a USB port to charge it in your car, EON comes with everything you need to get started. It includes two mounts, two USB cables, a home charger, and a replacement top piece to change the mounting angle.
“If you want to read the sensors from your car, you need a panda. The panda also doubles as a great EON charger! And if you want to get your panda in even deeper and read your car’s radar, you need a giraffe, supported on select Honda and Toyota.”
What’s comma.ai’s broader vision? It seems that it’s to let Tesla be the Apple of in-car tech (including self-driving car tech) and to position itself as the Android of that. Think that’s just my obtuse and hyperbolic assumption? Think again.
“We are going to be the Android of self driving cars. We don’t want to live in a world where 15 different auto OEMs design the operating systems for their cars. We lived in that world for far too long with phones.
“The phone world has collapsed to two real players: Apple and Google. Tesla is the Apple of self driving, but they need an Android to keep them on their toes. That’s what we are doing. We are building a high quality self driving experience for the rest of the cars.
“The first step was building a great universal car interface, and I think we did that with panda. The second step is getting some powerful sensors and compute hardware into your car, and EON is working toward that.
For more, I definitely encourage you to watch the video above of geohot talking about self-driving cars, various automakers, and the new product. And thanks to Autonomy for getting CleanTechnica to the conference to snatch up scoops like this and the big Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announcement — while not moderating panels. 😉