George Hotz, who has been working on autonomous car driving models, is refocusing on building a better framework for machine learning. (Source: Steve Jennings of Getty Images, via Wikimedia Commons) Founder Hotz to Attempt to Improve Autonomous Car System  through ML Project

When it comes to the people involved with AI, there are few who are as interesting or as capable as George Hotz- aka ‘geohot’ in some circles. Some circles might say he is ‘quirky’.

Hotz is an American security hacker, entrepreneur, and software engineer best known for developing iOS jailbreaks, reverse engineering the PlayStation 3, and for the subsequent lawsuit brought against him by Sony.

At age 17, George Hotz made a name for himself in hacker circles as the first person to carrier unlock the iPhone. A few years later, he got in trouble with Sony for hacking the PlayStation 3 (the company sued and then later settled out of court). In 2015, he got in a fight with Elon Musk, after Musk allegedly tried to hire him, for claiming he could make a better version of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving software Autopilot. Four years ago, founder Hotz turned to his board — of which he is the only member — and fired himself as CEO. At the time, his goal was to build out a new research division to focus on behavioral models that can drive cars.

Now, Hotz tells Kirsten Korosec of that he is taking “some time away” from the driver assistance system startup that promises to bring Tesla Autopilot-like functionality to your car. Although, he will remain its sole board member and president., which developed and now sells a $1,999 driver assistance system devkit that is compatible on more than 200 vehicles, will go on without him, Hotz says.  The focus now is turning the devkit, which runs on Comma’s open-source software called openpilot, into a consumer product.

“I’m good at things when it’s wartime,” Hotz told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “I’m not so good at hands-on, ok, let’s patiently scale this up. ‘Do you want to deal with a supply chain that’s capable of making 100,000 devices a year?’ Like, not really.”

The startup quietly raised $10 million from individuals last year and moved into a 20,000-square-foot facility in San Diego. Into Comma 3

If you are not familiar with the AI company that Hotz started five years ago, here is some background. initially launched with a plan to sell a $999 aftermarket self-driving car kit that would give certain vehicle models highway-driving assistance abilities similar to Tesla’s Autopilot feature. Hotz canceled those plans in October 2016 after receiving a letter from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Five weeks later, released its self-driving software to the world. All of the code, as well as plans for the hardware, was posted on GitHub.

The company continued to develop an ecosystem of hardware products all aimed at bringing semi-autonomous driving capabilities to cars. Those efforts have culminated in the Comma 3, which is priced between $1,999 and $2,499 depending on the storage size. The car harness, which connects the devkit to the vehicle, is another $200. Users say the Comma 3 is far easier to use than its earlier versions.

New Project Underway

Hotz has created Tiny Corporation to write a new framework for machine learning that is faster and less complex than PyTorch. Instead of training the ML model in the cloud and shipping it to the edge, Hotz wants to build tools that allow ML models to be trained at the edge. In other words, Hotz wants software that writes itself and then applies that to driverless technology seamlessly.

Quirky perhaps, but driven definitely. That defines George Hotz pretty well.