George Hotz simply needs to construct robots. You can see the need within the Comma 3, the next-generation assisted driving {hardware} from his firm, 

“It’s got two eyes,” he tells me, pointing to the 2 forward-facing cameras. He then holds the machine as much as his face so I can see the cameras are spaced about as far aside as a set of eyes on a human. 

Hotz goes on, “It has a mouth for speaking. It can breathe air to cool itself… We’re building a human head.” 

“We’re building a human head.”

You might bear in mind Hotz when he glided by the hacker identify “geohot” to jailbreak an iPhone on the tender age of 17. Since then, he’s been a thorn in Elon Musk’s facet, dissing Tesla’s Autopilot know-how. And he’s pissed off Sony by breaking right into a PlayStation 3. (Sony sued however later dropped the suit on the situation that Hotz comply with by no means tinker with its {hardware} once more.)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been conserving a eager eye on him, to the purpose the place Hotz practically stopped making the Comma unit altogether in 2016. He fired himself as CEO of Comma and now claims he’s only a advertising intern. (He additionally took a current spin as an intern at Musk’s Twitter however give up after a few weeks.)

Hotz is outspoken about his dislike for native driver-assist methods, and he’s all the time wished to “make driving chill.” I’m about to get a demo on this newest iteration to see simply how chill it may be. 

The six-inch show display screen exhibits the street forward with an overlay of the lane markings so I do know what it’s seeing.
Image: Comma

Comma driver assist

The machine additionally acts as a splash cam, recording as much as 1TB of video.
Image: Comma

The Comma 3 is bigger than a cellphone however smaller than an iPad. Unlike previous iterations, the Openpilot assisted-driving software program is already downloaded into the machine. After all, what good is a head with none brains? Drivers want solely mount the system to the windshield, run the wire all the way down to the car’s CAN bus, and plug it in. There, it accesses the automobile’s adaptive cruise management and lane-centering know-how, turning them as much as 11.

The Comma 3 hands-free driving-assist know-how is best than something you may get from a legacy producer. On an illustration drive in Las Vegas, the system is put in right into a Kia EV6. There is a rear-facing digicam on the Comma 3 directed towards me to make sure I don’t take my eyes off the street or go to sleep. If I do, it points a visible warning, then an audible one if I nonetheless refuse to concentrate — or get up.

The Comma 3 hands-free driving-assist know-how is best than something you may get from a legacy producer

The six-inch show display screen exhibits the street forward, an overlay of the lane markings so I do know what it’s seeing, the automobile’s velocity, and the max velocity of the system. The machine additionally acts as a splash cam, recording as much as 1TB of video, if that’s your jam. It’s GPS enabled, though it gained’t comply with these instructions by itself simply but.

To begin, I simply press the adaptive cruise management button on the Kia’s steering wheel. At first, it’s not a lot completely different than GM’s Super Cruise or Ford’s BlueCruise. I can take my arms off the wheel and the system follows visitors simply, taking mild curves easily, altering lanes by itself, and all in all, not inflicting a lot fuss. However, drivers can solely use the methods from Ford and GM on premapped roads. The Comma 3 is sweet just about anyplace.

That’s as a result of it takes all its path from the 2 high-tech cameras. It sees the lane markings, the tempo of the opposite automobiles round it, just a few visitors cones, and even one wayward bicyclist and simply… drives. Of course, I maintain my eyes up, and I’m able to take over at any time, however the Comma-controlled Kia is doing simply effective by itself.

The greatest improve from the Comma 2 is the power to acknowledge visitors lights. A couple of occasions throughout my drive, I’m the primary in line at a pink gentle. The Comma 3 sees the pink gentle and stops the automobile easily, entrance tires in keeping with the nook curbing, one thing I did not do alone driving take a look at once I was 16 and walked away with a 97 p.c as a substitute of an ideal rating. It holds the automobile at a full cease till the sunshine turns inexperienced, then it gently accelerates away. 

The greatest improve from the Comma 2 is the power to acknowledge visitors lights

The Comma 3 is the one system that may cease at pink lights. Tesla comes shut, figuring out a visitors gentle however not recognizing the colour of the sunshine. Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system, a beta driver-assist program that doesn’t allow totally autonomous capabilities, it doesn’t matter what Musk says, will cease at each gentle except given enter from the motive force that it’s okay to proceed. 

Another “oh wow” second is when the automobile in entrance of me turns proper right into a fuel station. Other native adaptive cruise management methods gradual for the turning automobile, then wait till the lead automobile is totally out of the lane earlier than it begins accelerating once more. This just isn’t how people drive and all the time leaves me yelling “go, you stupid computer!” The Comma 3 will get it proper, accelerating when the turning automobile is principally out of the lane. It’s a way more pure expertise.

Even driving by just a few tight chicanes feels fairly atypical. Instead of conserving the automobile straight centered within the lane, the Comma 3 provides a way more pure path, chopping the corners ever so barely, although nonetheless staying inside the lane markings.

That’s to not say the Comma 3 is ideal. It disengaged as soon as on my take a look at drive at a reasonably complicated intersection. The gentle is located in the midst of a curve within the street and the solar is reflecting off the painted strains on the pavement. The human driver, me, is a bit confused, so it’s powerful to fault the robotic.

That’s to not say the Comma 3 is ideal

Still, pretty much as good because the Comma 3 is, it doesn’t make your automobile drive itself. Even with my arms off the wheel, I nonetheless have to concentrate and be able to take over at any time. Case in level — I’m stopped at a pink left-turn arrow, however when it turns inexperienced, the automobile doesn’t go. 

“It’s scared,” says Hotz, reminding me that he actually does consider this technique as a human-like robotic. However, all I must do is give the steering wheel a bit little bit of enter, and the automobile begins the flip. Driving help, sure. Self-driving, no.

The Comma 3 is appropriate with over 200 automobiles, some with a mannequin yr as previous as 2014. says its system works particularly properly with late-model Hyundai and Toyota automobiles. You can snag one at’s web site for $1,499, extra if you’d like extra reminiscence storage for video plus $200 in your automobile’s particular wiring harness.  

George Hotz

Hotz demonstrating an earlier model of Comma’s driver-assist know-how
Photo by Michael Zelenko / The Verge

The unit has been in the marketplace for a couple of yr and a half, and 5,000 of them are in drivers’ arms as we converse. Hotz thinks that, inside two years, we’ll see a Chinese producer construct a automobile along with his know-how inbuilt. However, it’s unclear what the longer term holds for Hotz and his firm. 

He says, “This is not the game plan forever. I think that we’re going to have a great five-year run where we make a couple hundred million dollars selling these things, but long term, I want to push way beyond these things… The real thing you want is a chauffeur. The real thing you want is a humanoid robot that will sit down in your driver’s seat and drive the car.”

Hotz claims to have a rudimentary Comma physique, and I’ve already seen the Comma head throughout this demo. Whether a full-driving — or vacuuming or cooking — robotic is one thing that can produce stays to be seen. One factor I can say for certain: hacker-turned-robot-builder is kind of a profession trajectory. 

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