After mothballing Comma One, George Hotz releases free autonomous car software

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Enlarge / A sketch of the Comma Neo. (credit: Comma.ai)

In Silicon Valley, hacker George Hotz gained fast fame after being the first to unlock an iPhone. He recently capitalized on his reputation and turned to hacking cars, raising millions in funding to build a third-party device that would give average, everyday cars autonomous functionality. He called this device the Comma One and the company making it Comma.ai.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent Hotz a letter in October asking him to detail how the product works, as well as how the safety features built into the Comma One work, or face an ever-growing fine. Hotz abruptly canceled the product, tweeting, “The comma one is cancelled. comma.ai will be exploring other products and markets.” Then on Tuesday night this week, Hotz started tweeting hints that the Comma One could be revived, at least partially. He also posted a video of what appeared to be a Comma One-type device driving on the 280 highway.

On Wednesday morning, Hotz held a press conference in a San Francisco home to announce that instead of reviving the Comma One as a market-ready device, Comma.ai would be giving away its self-driving software—called Open Pilot—as well as plans for compatible hardware, called Comma Neo—for free, according to The Verge.

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