We have been talking about Google’s self-driving car project every once in a while, how the company spends millions and millions of dollars on research and development, a huge team, several cars testing out the technology in the streets, and so on. There’s also Tesla and their less-radical approach with the Autopilot feature which offers an autonomous driving experience, something that also cost a lot of money to develop. All that said, you would be amazed to know that a 26-year old hacker built his own self-driving car, alone, in his garage and in just one month.
The guy behind it is George Hotz, also known as “geohot” online, and he was the first person ever to hack an iPhone, back in 2007, by unlocking the device to work with carriers other than AT&T. After several feats, Hotz was trying to find something interesting to do in life and then decided to build a self-driving car. He then got a 2016 Acura ILX and modified the car to fit his purposes. There’s a giant, 21.5-inch display attached on the front panel, connected to a computer running Ubuntu Linux. There’s also a joystick mounted between the two front seats that is used to engage the autonomous driving mode. The car works using six cameras – one on each side, one on the back, two near the rear-view mirror, and one fisheye camera on top.
The vehicle was put to trial on a road in San Francisco and during the test-drive the system worked pretty well, despite some glitches here and there, which is really impressive taken the afore-mentioned fact that everything was built in around a month. As it couldn’t be different, Hotz got the attention of Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, and the two even talked about Artificial Intelligence and the technology employed in Tesla’s cars. According to him, he would be awarded a very good contract by Musk, but decided to blow him off after feeling that Musk was “jerking him around for 3 months.” “I appreciate the offer, but like I’ve said, I’m not looking for a job. I’ll ping you when I crush Mobileye,” Hotz replied to Musk in an e-mail offering a multi-million dollar contract to develop a technology better than Mobileye’s, currently used by Tesla. Hotz plans to develop his technology and have a world-class autonomous vehicle in 5 months, and make the final demonstration by driving it across the Golden Gate bridge and then on I-405 in Los Angeles, where Elon Musk lives. Everything will be on video and posted to YouTube. If you are curious, you can check out the video about the test-drive right below.