Hotz Cancels Comma One Autonomous Driving Device After NHTSA Information Request

Bozi Tatarevic
by Bozi Tatarevic
hotz cancels comma one autonomous driving device after nhtsa information request

George Hotz announced in a series of tweets that he’s cancelling the Comma One device that he promised to deliver before the end of the year.

The reason for the cancellation, as Hotz states, stems from an information request he received from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Attached to one of Hotz’s tweets, the NHTSA document has a set of fifteen standard questions. Hotz responded to the questions by stating he would rather spend his life “building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn’t worth it.”

The Comma One device was first shown last December in a demonstration to Bloomberg. In that piece, Hotz promised to ship the device by the end of this year for less than $1,000.

Since then, Hotz secured millions in venture capital funding and worked to expand the device’s functionality. He made a splashy presentation at TechCrunch Disrupt SF last month, showing the device was moving ahead and he’d started a data collection system.

On Friday morning, Hotz announced on Twitter he’d received what he believed to be a threatening letter from NHTSA. The letter, which you can view in full on Scribd, asks Hotz to respond to a set of fifteen questions by November 10 or face a $21,000 fine per day. The letter asks Hotz to delay any launch until he submits the requested information, but does not ask him to cancel the product. Hotz even made sure to mark the location of his last tweet as coming from China to presumably signal he’ll be exploring easier markets.

Got this in the mail today. First time I hear from them and they open with threats. No attempt at a dialog. -GH 1/3

— comma ai (@comma_ai) October 28, 2016

Would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn’t worth it. -GH 2/3

— comma ai (@comma_ai) October 28, 2016

The comma one is cancelled. will be exploring other products and markets. Hello from Shenzhen, China. -GH 3/3

— comma ai (@comma_ai) October 28, 2016

Regulators can be unreasonable in certain situations, but the questions listed in the document seem regular and mundane for such a device. They also match many of the questions we’ve asked of Hotz. The questions focus on how the device operates, how it may impact driver safety, how to install the device, and how it will impact factory safety systems.

Users of’s forum were left in the dark by Hotz as he provided no information in the announcements section regarding the cancellation. One user already posted to the forum, stating the NHTSA questions seem to be reasonable before asking for confirmation on the project’s cancellation. Many of those users are likely driving around now collecting data for a product that will never ship.

The behavior Hotz is exhibiting is not surprising.

He initially operated outside of California guidelines for autonomous vehicles, but told us he thought he’d be in the clear. NHTSA’s request is not an attack on and looks to fall in line with recent HAV guidelines. Instead, Hotz may once again be responding with his ego or using this as an opportunity to cancel a product that’s far from complete.

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20 of 78 comments
  • Tylanner Tylanner on Oct 28, 2016

    The amount of legal and philosophical uncertainties that come with self-driving technology is a debate muddled by altruistic motives of saving lives and greedy little entrepreneurs like this one. A startup venture in a rented office space is not going to solve this problem. This poses a massive regulatory, and as a result, technological hurdle that will not be overcome by a will not be an Uber like ascendancy. This is an industry-wide dilemma that takes hardwork, teamwork and collaboration with the public and the government. We learned how to split atoms early on in the 20th century but it took decades to get a viable commercial reactor synced to the power grid. We can make a car move and turn with the road ahead using cameras and sensors but the implications of unleashing a product like this without the requisite vetting and research should not be allowed. The consequences of a car crash are just as immediate and irreversible as a nuclear meltdown just on a smaller scale.

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Oct 28, 2016

    I'm not sure that NHTSA has any statutory authority yet in this case. Their letter to Hotz says ""Your company is a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment subject to the requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, under NHTSA's oversight." Under Definitions, 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 defines manufacturer thusly: "(6) “manufacturer” means a person— (A) manufacturing or assembling motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment; or (B) importing motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment for resale." "Manufacturing or assembling" are present tense verbs with specific meanings. Yet in their same letter, NHTSA says the he "intends to sell". I haven't been able to find any indication that Hotz ever produced more than just the one prototype he demonstrated. Does intent and breadboarding a prototype make you a manufacturer? Until the Comma One goes into production I think NHTSA is overstepping their legal authority. It's probably of a piece with the EPA's nice little industry you have here message to SEMA and the racing community over messing emissions controls on vehicles used off-road.

    • See 17 previous
    • Sirwired Sirwired on Oct 31, 2016

      @Ronnie Schreiber "You’re saying that if you experiment withsome piece of equipment for your car that you’ve invented, you’re automatically under the purview of NHTSA?" Well, if you've announced your intention to offer it for sale to the general public in less than three months, yes.

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  • Kwik_Shift There are no new Renegades for sale within my geographic circle of up to 85 kms. Looks like the artificial shortage game. They bring one in, 10 buyers line up for it, $10,000 over MSRP. Yeah. Like with a lot of new cars.
  • Ribbedroof In Oklahoma, no less!
  • Ribbedroof Have one in the shop for minor front collision repairs right now,I've seen more of these in the comments than in the 30 years I've been in collision repair.