A 26-year-old hacker just banked millions to take on Elon Musk.
George Hotz is the founder of Comma.ai, an autonomous driving startup that’s roughly six months old. On Monday, top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz announced a $3.1 million investment in the company.
Comma.ai is working on a kit that will make it possible to turn regular vehicles into semi-autonomous ones. In October, Hotz purchased a 2016 Acura ILX, cameras and GoPro mounts and started developing the technology out of his San Francisco garage.
The goal is to bring the kit — both computer vision software and the cameras — to market for less than $1,000 a pop before the end of 2016. It’ll be relatively easy to install, said Hotz, “on par with setting up a piece of IKEA furniture.”
Chris Dixon, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, wrote that when he first met Hotz he was skeptical. But that quickly turned to enthusiasm after he tested the car and learned more about the artificial intelligence behind Comma.ai.
Hotz, who Dixon describes as “brilliant,” has made quite a dent in Silicon Valley over the past decade.
When he was 17, he discovered a way to hack the iPhone so that all carriers could use the device, not just AT&T (the only carrier to initially have a contract). His alias, Geohot, became legendary in hacker circles.
He went to Rochester Institute of Technology but dropped out after one semester. He interned at Google (GOOG), worked at Facebook (FB, Tech30), and was sued by Sony over a Playstation 3 hack. He took computer science courses at Carnegie Mellon but didn’t earn a bachelor’s degree.
“I think college is potentially the greatest scam in history,” he told CNNMoney on Monday.
Hotz, who is originally from New Jersey, said he’s long been fascinated with artificial intelligence but wasn’t quite sure how to approach it.