George Hotz, a 26-year-old hacker living in San Francisco—a person known for iPhone and PlayStation 3 hacks — has transformed his Acura ILX into the driverless car with a help of only one device that he has developed on his own.
1/7/16 4:00 am chumakdenis 1
People have different attitudes to hackers.
Some of the people liken them to criminals, other, contrary to them, treat them as heroes and praise them for their deeds.
Anyway, whatever people think about them, one fact about them remains unshakeable: they’re smart as hell.
And oftentimes these people use their talents for our commonweal.
The thing is that not all the hackers are bad and one of such hackers is George Hotz, a well-known American hacker who managed to find vulnerabilities of iPhone and PlayStation 3.
So, to make a long story short, here’s what he did – he went to the garage and outfitted his 2016 Acura ILX with a laser-based radar system on the roof and a camera mounted near the rearview mirror.
Then, he attached a tangle of electronics to a wooden board where the glove compartment used to be, replaced a gearshift with a joystick, and, finally, attached onboard computer that runs on his own OS – Linux operating system was used as a source – with a 21.5-inch screen to the center of the dash.
Amazing, isn’t it?
One guy with nothing more than raw talent in programming did the same trick as Tesla did.
But, unlike engineers from Tesla Motors, he didn’t have access to that many educational and financial resources.
That’s definitely some of the things that stand him out from the crowd –oh, and of course, time (28 days) and price of his prototype device ($1,000) do it too, but we’ll ‘talk’ about it a little bit later on.
Everything started after this year’s Thanksgiving Day – mop-headed hacker with ‘red’ eyes thought that self-driving vehicles are way too expensive and it would be really nice to make this technology really affordable.
After running series of tests on computer, he took his 2016 Acura ILX and assembled a laundry list of electronics inside: a 21.5 inch screen on the dash that rivals a Tesla Model S (it has a 17-inch), a mini computer running Linux, GPS sensors built into the glove compartment, and cameras mounted around the car.
Well, as of now, his electronic gizmo works surprisingly well.
High prices are ‘defeated’
It took a great deal of sophisticated, expensive technology to make those early cars work. Some of the Grand Challenge contestants lugged the equivalent of small data centers in their vehicles. Exteriors were usually covered with an array of sensors typically found in research labs. Today, Google, which hired many of the entrants, has dozens of vehicles in its fleet that use similar technology, although dramatic advances in computing power, sensors, and the autonomous software have lowered the overall cost.
Artificial-intelligence software and consumer-grade cameras, Hotz contends, have become good enough to allow a clever tinkerer to elaborate a low-cost self-driving system for just about any vehicle. The technology he’s building represents an end run on much more expensive systems being designed by Google, Uber, other automakers. and, if persistent rumors and numerous news reports are true, Apple. More short term, he thinks he can challenge Mobileye, the Israeli company that supplies Tesla Motors, BMW, Ford Motor, General Motors and others with their current driver-assist technology.
“It’s absurd. They’re a company that’s behind the times, and they have not caught up.” - Hotz said of Mobileye.
Mobiley denied allegations
Mobileye spokesman Yonah Lloyd denied that the company’s technology was outdated.
Last quarter, Mobileye reported revenue of $71 million, up 104 percent from the period a year earlier. It relies on a custom chip and well-known software techniques to guide cars along freeways. The technology has been around for a while, although carmakers have just started bragging about it. Tesla, in particular, has done a remarkable job remarketing the Mobileye technology by claiming its cars now ship with "Autopilot" features. Tesla’s fans have peppered the Internet with videos of its all-electric Model S sedans driving themselves on freeways and even changing lanes on their own.
Ways of improvement
George Hotz plans to best the Mobileye technology with off-the-shelf electronics. He’s building a kit consisting of six cameras -- similar to the $13 ones found in smartphones -- that would be placed around the car. Two would go inside near the rearview mirror, one in the back, two on the sides to cover blind spots, and a fisheye camera up top. He then trains the control software for the cameras using what’s known as a neural net -- a type of self-teaching artificial intelligence mechanism that grabs data from drivers and learns from their choices. The goal is to sell the camera and software package for $1,000 a pop either to automakers or, if need be, directly to consumers who would buy customized vehicles at a showroom run by Hotz.
“I have 10 friends who already want to buy one” – mentioned brilliant American engineer.
The timing for all of this is vague. Hotz says he’ll release a YouTube video a few months from now in which his Acura beats a Tesla Model S on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. The point of the exercise is twofold. First, it will prove the technology works and is ready to go on sale. Second, it will help Hotz win a bet with Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla.
A few words about George Hotz
Georg Hotz is a very famous person in the tech community. He made a name for himself by hacking iPhone and PlayStation 3.
At just only17 years-old, he became the first person to unlock the iPhone, allowing it to be used on any cell network.
Then, a few years later, he hacked Sony's PlayStation 3 and posted details of the security exploit on his website – an achievement that ended up getting him sued(the case was settled out of court).
Over the past couple years, Hotz had been on a walkabout, trying to decide what he wanted to do next, before hitting on the self-driving car idea as perhaps his most audacious hack yet.
Plans for the future
After brief stints at SpaceX, Google, Facebook, and some time studying artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University, Hotz is working on self-driving car technology that may be sold direct to consumers or to car companies through his startup, comma.ai.
Well, it seems that Hotz does have big shoes to fill.
Let’s wish him good luck and hope that future fierce competition will lead to decline in autonomous vehicles prices.
Who knows, he might be the next genius of our times.