Give me completely unregulated self-driving cars or give me death. That's the tenor of a move by much-buzzed-about San Francisco startup Comma.ai to suddenly shut down a supposedly soon-to-launch product after receiving hints that regulators might possibly want to, I don't know, have some kind of regulations for self-driving car products on public roads or whatever.
The product in question: An adaptor for certain cars that was introduced at TechCrunch Disrupt this fall. The company's founder, George Hotz (aka Geohot, aka give me a break), is a 27-year-old career hacker and tech wunderkind, but according to many in the industry he's also an enfant terrible, as is perhaps in evidence here.
At TechCrunch's conference in September, Hotz announced Comma.ai's product, the Comma One, would ship by the end of the year for $999. "It’s about on par with Tesla Autopilot,” Hotz said at the time, “It’s Mountain View to San Francisco without touching the wheel."
Only it won't be: Forbes writer Sam Abuelsamid wrote yesterday that he'd been excited to meet Hotz and see his keynote speech recently at the the annual Automotive Cybersecurity West Summit. But Hotz bailed on that, and nobody from Comm.ai bothered to show up, so Abuelsamid ended up delivering a talk himself. Apparently the no-show was in regards to the following:
Comma.ai, whose Twitter tagline was "Ghostriding for the masses," announced from its account recently that "The comma one is cancelled. comma.ai will be exploring other products and markets. Hello from Shenzhen, China."
That tweet was signed GH for George Hotz, and it was preceded by the claim that he "Would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn't worth it." So, what happened? Hotz had received a somewhat strongly worded letter from the US Department of Transportation. Forbes' Abuelsamid calls Hotz "incredibly arrogant even by Silicon Valley standards," so maybe things weren't a great fit here.
Good luck in Shenzhen, George! I hear the lack of regulation is lovely this time of year.