The Breakthrough

George Hotz, a 26-year-old hacker, has developed a self-driving car. Oh, and he built it in about a month. In his garage.

A tangle of electronics is attached to a wooden board where the glove compartment used to be. A joystick protrudes where you’d usually find a gearshift. And a 21.5-inch screen is also attached to the center of the dash.

“Tesla only has a 17-inch screen,” Hotz tells Bloomberg.

Hotz explains that his self-driving setup, similar to the autopilot feature on a Tesla, is meant for highways, not city streets. Of course, building an autonomous car that can drive anywhere is pretty impressive; however, such feats are nothing new for Hotz.

He is the first person to crack the iPhone and the first to crack the PlayStation 3.

The Future Cars

However, Hotz doesn't seem to think the accomplishment is that difficult. Artificial intelligence software and consumer-level cameras, Hotz asserts, have become good enough to allow anyone with the necessary know-how to create a low-cost self-driving system for just about any car.

In fact, he thinks he can challenge Mobileye, the Israeli company that supplies the current driver-assist technology. “It’s absurd,” Hotz says of Mobileye. “They’re a company that’s behind the times, and they have not caught up.”

Hotz plans to best the Mobileye technology with readily accessible electronics. The goal is to sell the camera and software package for $1,000 a set either to automakers or directly to consumers who will want the customized vehicles they see at Hotz’s showroom.

The timeline for all of this is unclear, but Hotz says he’ll release a YouTube video a few months from now in which his Acura beats a Tesla Model S on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. The purpose of the exercise is twofold. First, he hopes it will prove the technology works and is ready for the market. Second, it will help Hotz win a bet with Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla.

Tesla published a blog post refuting Hotz’s claims, saying, “it is extremely unlikely that a single person or even a small company that lacks extensive engineering validation capability will be able to produce an autonomous driving system that can be deployed to production vehicles.”

Admittedly, Hotz acknowledges that his current design isn't (at the present time) on par with a major company that has been backed financially and also houses teams of scientists and engineers; however, his contribution is impressive, and the potential is noteworthy.

Learn more about the development in this video.

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