George Hotz is the founder of Comma.ai which he claims is the number 2 company in autonomous driving behind Tesla. Hotz was recently a guest on the Third Row Tesla podcast.
The episode touched on a lot of different topics, including his failed deal with Elon Musk which he has spoken about a number of times before.
Hotz also went on to lay down a bet, that Tesla will add driver monitoring, before they release Full Self Driving that doesn’t need to be monitored. Essentially this is a technology argument of two very different approaches to the problem of having drivers be responsible in the event the autonomous system fails.
Inside every Model 3 (and Model Y) is a small camera above the mirror. This is off and Musk has explained this will be enabled when they turn on robotaxis, much like passengers are monitored in a taxi.
Musk seems confident that their computer vision-powered self driving technology will reach a level of ability that surpasses humans and therefore does not need to monitor the driver to ensure they’re paying attention.
Comma.ai’s system is made up of OpenPilot software, combined with Comma Two hardware. This system does not require you to have your hands on the wheel (or supply torque input). This is thanks to the platform offering driver monitoring today, to ensure the driver is paying attention to the road (not asleep).
Hotz also detailed that they’re not currently using pupil detection, instead, opting to rely on chaotic movements in a driver’s inputs to determine if they’re driving under the influence.
So, if the camera in the Model 3/Y could be used for monitoring the driver when Autopilot and FSD is engaged, why wouldn’t Tesla do that? Hotz claims it is because the camera lacks one simple, but important feature, the ability to see at night.
Hotz was so confident that he said during the interview that he’d make a bet of $10,000 that Tesla will have to enable driver monitoring, before their FSD is good enough to relieve the driver of their responsibilities.
It’s a really interesting debate and variance in approach. I personally do get annoyed by the Autopilot nag every 20-30 seconds, when the car is on a highway, has an almost perfect confidence level of the environment around it. I would absolutely prefer they enabled driver monitoring and let me watch the road without the nag. If I look away for too long, or the car loses confidence in its ability to navigate the world, then please nag.
If Hotz is right and driver monitoring is needed, then the lack of night vision will be an issue for Tesla. This could result in a retrofit or another continual improvement that would only see cars made after X date be capable of hands-free driving, ahead of a full FSD milestone.
I think the fear here is mostly around the machine to human handoff and back again. Drivers need to be ready to take control at any stage, and if an edge case arises that the car can’t deal with, there needs to be enough time for the human to take control.
Now it’s time to watch the 1 hour 20-minute interview, in Episode 17 of the Third Row podcast. Let me know what you think in the comments.