So I have a thing for self-driving cars. Greater anticipation that for the next Star Wars Movie, Christmas Morning, the next GoT episode or whatever else might prompt you to wish upon a star.
I am one of the fortunate residents of Potrero Hill. In my opinion, one of the best places to live on planet earth. One of the people in my neighborhood is George Hotz. George has built a (semi-) self-driving car out of his garage (house garage, not commercial garage).
T h e v i d e o
A little background…
March, 2016 - GM purchased Cruise for a little over $1 Billion and I don’t think they have done anything surpassing what comma has done.
April, 2016 - Andreessen Horowitz invests $3.1M in comma.ai. They probably just did it to get involved. I mean $3M is pocket change to a firm like that. Similar investments from Andreessen Horowitz over the past year went to companies like: Mino Games, OnCorps, Inc., Nootrobox, CodeCombat, SigOpt, Dispatch, Jopwell, twoXAR, Incorporated, Blockspring….I don’t think ANY of them have gotten the press that George has.
George is brilliant…crazy, but brilliant and his team seems equally impressive. I am certain they will be successful in cracking the machine learning to enable self driving cars. BUT
I PREDICT THAT THERE WILL BE NO PHYSICAL, direct-to-consumer PRODUCT AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE FROM COMMA.AI ON 12/31/16...OR POSSIBLY EVER.
So if anyone is actually thinking that it might happen, it’s not. Comma.ai is NOT manufacturing a physical product, but rather they are building a powerful machine learning product which will be available to the highest bidder - perhaps Ford, VW, Toyota to incorporate into their vehicles. My guess is that they will be able to deliver proof of concept by the end of 2016 at which time they will sell the product for I’m guessing close to $2 Billion. And Andreessen Horowitz will have made potentially the best, fastest money ever. No sour grapes here as I will be rooting for comma.ai's success and the fastest possible advances in this technology's capability and safety. I know that comma.ai will deliver an amazing product...it just won't be available for the masses to purchase via Amazon Prime and self-install as described.
If you want an actual kit for your current car, look to Pearl Auto - rearview cameras today, driving in the future. If you are in the market for a new car get a Tesla or wait for a Faraday Future (FF).
The gist is that by December 31st of this year, you will be able to purchase a kit for under $1000 from Amazon Prime that will make your car a self-driving car. I’ve seen the videos of him driving. I believed it.
And so I thought - hey - he seems like he could use someone like me.
He’s on a crazy deadline, to deliver a product, that will make your car self-driving. The number of activities he needs to do are seemingly endless. And I have done a lot of stuff that would prove valuable to a guy in his position. So I figure I will take a shot at this.
I make up my quick pitch, in a tone to reach a guy like him, using his brand identity. It’s typed up and on the front of a bag with some of my freshly baked, killer dark chocolate chip and sea salt cookies. I’m ready, so hop on my bike and ride over to drop them off at his place. To my surprise, George is right there on the sidewalk. I introduce myself to him and Jake, give him the goods and let him know that I’d like to help him. “We’re only hiring engineers” is what the conversation should be entitled. I let him know that I can do a lot of different things and there must be SOMETHING that they need that is not engineering related. We go back and forth on this. George says he will think about it. Ok - we’ll see…
I’m at Farley’s our local neighborhood coffee shop and Jake and his friend Sunny walk in. “Hey Stacey”….”Hey Jake”….
He says that it wasn't clear what I was working on from my website. I explained it was just a placeholder that I did for the Product Management class I was taking. He asked about my political involvement. I gave him the highlights. “See ya round….”
no response yet…hmmm…I better send him something more convincing than a snappy one-pager and some cookies. I start working on a plan.
I get some feedback on my presentation and go for a hardcore revision - that’s here.
Email to George asking to meet to discuss what I have put together for him.
Still nothing…Well perhaps I will run into him.
Head to Farley’s and guess who was there. Yep - George. He was meeting with one of the guys on his team. “Hey George - when will you have 15 minutes for me.” And then it was the beginning of the “We only hire engineers” show. When I asked him about the:
ID, manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, component selection, customer support, product testing, user research, liability, marketing, demand planning, HR, cash flow projections, etc…. He basically said that everything could be solved by engineers. We spent about 15 minutes in the coffee shop going back and forth. I mention a function of the company that no rational person would expect an engineer to handle and he explained how the engineers were going to handle it or that it was no big deal (like payroll, HR, compliance, etc...)
b) quite an inefficient use of engineering time