Florida is preparing for autonomous vehicles in the future as the Federal Government is still scratching its head over regulations. Florida House Bill 7027 allows consumer use of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles beginning July 1, 2016. Consumers do not have access to the self-driving vehicles yet and will not for a few years thanks to the cancellation of an autonomous retrofit that was scheduled to be shipped at the end of 2016.
George Hotz, the 26-year-old notorious hacker, announced in October he is not moving forward with the production of the retrofit kits, which would fit many different cars and sell for under $1000. Hotz was ready to begin selling the Comma One aftermarket add-on after receiving $3.1 million in funding from A16z, a technology investment firm in April 2016.
If the name George Hotz sounds familiar, he was the first person to hack the iPhone at 17 years old. The Comma One was just one of several technologies being developed by his team of software engineers at his company, Comma.ai.
George Hotz made the decision to cancel the Comma One following a letter received from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The letter explained that the NHTSA required the compliance of the Comma One with safety regulations before it can be offered for sale. The NHTSA followed the letter with a “special order” requiring the company provide detailed answers to 15 questions concerning design and testing as well as information regarding safety trials, target vehicles, and anticipated sales timeline.
Hotz announced on the company’s official Twitter account that the company would be canceling the entire project in lieu of providing the requisite response, and focusing on “other products and markets.”
“Dealing with regulators and lawyers…isn’t worth it.” Hotz noted.
The Comma One was first unveiled at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September of this year. Hotz announced at the time the product would be shipping to customers by the end of this year. Florida being the only state that allows consumers to operate autonomous cars, was an obvious target market. Florida Law holds the manufacturer responsible for an accident only if “an alleged defect was present in the vehicle as originally manufactured.” In the case of owner retro-fitted autonomy, the owner is liable rather than the manufacturer.
With the news of the Comma One set to be shipped late in 2016, lawyers and law enforcement were preparing to dive into unknown waters. With the cancellation, they can relax for now. In the future with most cars being at least partially autonomous, the roads and highways will become increasingly safer and the rising motor vehicle death and injury rate will decline. Every self-driven car crash so far was the fault of a human error. That is due to the facts that a computer cannot be distracted or drunk, miss a stop light or sign, tailgate or swerve in and out of traffic. Humans can make bad choices, computers can’t.
Dolman Law Group is a Florida personal injury law firm committed to making our roads and highways safer. If you or a loved one were the victim of a motor vehicle accident, call Dolman Law Group today at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation.