Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
Artificial Intelligence

Comma One Gets a Period: CEO Cancels Self-Driving Car Project

He previously challenged Tesla's Elon Musk to an autopilot duel.

Dom GaleonOctober 30th 2016

PERIOD MARKS NEW BEGINNING

Wonder hacker turned Comma.ai CEO George Hotz has announced he’s cancelling his aftermarket self-driving car product, which offered features similar to Tesla Autopilot. The comma one project, which was just launched last month, has been generating interest and has even received funding and support months prior.

Hotz always positioned his project as a cheaper alternative to Tesla’s self-driving cars. In repeated occasions, he challenged Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, betting that his Acura-installed system would beat a Tesla Model S on autopilot. It looks like the bets are off.

The announcement was made via Twitter and came after Hotz received a letter of requests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) dated Oct. 27.

It’s interesting to note that the tweet came from Hotz in China. Comma.ai is not shutting down, obviously. It is simply moving to other products and new markets, presumably China.

CONVERSATION BETWEEN POLICY AND RESEARCH

To be clear, NHTSA didn’t ask Hotz to put his project down. The requests were to delay the release of his product and to provide the federal agency with some information.

“We are concerned that your product would put the safety of your customers and other road users at risk,” the NHTSA said in the letter. “We strongly encourage you to delay selling or deploying your product on the public roadways unless and until you can ensure it is safe.”

This entire affair is a good reminder of the dynamics between tech research and sound government policies. In a recent interview, Barack Obama himself recognised how policy must provide guideposts for research but without stifling new developments.

And it didn’t exactly seem like the NHTSA was stifling comma one. As a matter of fact, the US government sees the value of self-driving car technology.

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