Comma.ai, the startup founded by former iPhone and PlayStation 3 hacker George Hotz, is crashing before it even started to fly.
The first official product of Comma.ai, the Comma One, is supposed to be a self-driving car kit that can be installed in old cars to give them self-driving capabilities. According to Hotz, the accessory would come with a price tag of $999 and will be available before the year ends.
For fans of self-driving technology but could not afford to purchase a new car that comes with the capability, the Comma One would have been the perfect device. However, it seems that those dreams are now over, as Hotz has decided to cancel the self-driving car kit.
The NHTSA's Requests
In a series of tweets posted by Hotz using Comma.ai's official account, he revealed that the company received a letter coming from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency was requesting for a detailed description on how the Comma One would work, along with the safety precautions that it will be implementing.
"We are concerned that your product would put the safety of your customers and other road users at risk. We strongly encourage you to delay selling or deploying your product on the public roadways unless and until you can ensure it is safe," wrote NHTSA chief lawyer Paul Hemmersbaugh in the letter addressed to Hotz.
The NHTSA also requested for an explanation on how the device will not be interfering with federal safety standards. If the request of the agency would be ignored and Comma.ai will continue with the development and release of the Comma One, the startup could be looking at fines of up to $21,000 per day.
"Would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn't worth it," Hotz then tweeted, before stating that the Comma One is being canceled and that the company will instead be exploring other products and markets.
"Hello from Shenzhen, China," Hotz ended the tweet.
Comma One Already Sinking?
The Comma One was already setting up for disappointment before its cancellation though, as Hotz had backtracked on the device's capabilities. Hotz stated that the device would function more as an assistant for automatic lane-keeping rather than giving full self-driving vehicles to cars that will equip it.
The reaction of Hotz to the NHTSA's letter, however, can be described as a bit strange. He should have expected that the Comma One would require collaboration and oversight from federal regulators, as with all other self-driving and driver assistant technology out in the market today.