Back in December, we learned that famed hacker (and one-time Apple intern) George Hotz was looking to go toe-to-toe with heavyweights like Google and Tesla Motors in the burgeoning self-driving car market. Whereas those two companies have billions of dollars at their disposal and teams of engineers to develop software and hardware to make self-driving cars possible, Hotz created his own solution in his garage.
The 26-year-old gutted out the dashboard of his brand new 2016 Acura ILX and went to work using off the shelf hardware components including LIDAR, cameras, and a 21-inch dashboard-mounted display screen. Hotz also stashed a fully functional PC into the dash to handle computational duties along with a network hub and GPS sensors to help keep the ILX on course.
Not counting the cost of car itself, Hotz spent roughly $20,000 preparing his ILX for autonomous duties. Well, all of that hard work has paid off, as Hotz’s company, Comma.ai, has received $3.1 million in funding from a16z.
“I first met George a few months ago, and, like a lot of people who had seen the press coverage, I was skeptical,” wrote Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon today in a blog post. “How could someone build such an advanced system all by himself? After spending time with George, my skepticism turned into enthusiasm. I tested his car, and, along with some of my colleagues and friends with AI expertise, dug into the details of the deep learning system he’d developed.”
The funding will hopefully allow to develop a production version of his self-driving kit, complete with all the hardware and software necessary to get up and running. While not many could afford to spend $20,000 like Hotz did to convert his vehicle, a production-ready kit should cost in the neighborhood of $1,000 and would not only be offered to automakers, but also consumers.
However, we’d have to imagine that you’d have to pretty familiar with your car’s innards to accomplish such a feat. After all, not all of us coding and hardware geniuses like Hotz…