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Comma.ai Shelves Self-Driving Device After Regulatory Warning (reuters.com) 65

Comma.ai founder George Hotz, who has spent the good part of his past year criticizing competitors and their technologies, sent out a series of tweets Friday, saying that Comma.ai, a startup that aimed at offering semi-autonomous driving system, will be pulling out of the U.S. market in response to requests from federal regulators. From a Reuters report: The intervention, by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, came before Comma.ai began marketing its device. It is the latest signal that regulators want more control over the development and deployment of self-driving vehicle systems by vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, after a period in which they took a largely hands-off approach. The NHTSA on Friday disclosed an Oct. 27 letter to Comma.ai stating that the agency is investigating whether the company's device, called Comma One, complies with federal regulations. The letter and an accompanying special order demanded that Comma.ai provide the agency with information about the device and warned that the agency could prohibit the sale of the system if it were found to be defective.
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Comma.ai Shelves Self-Driving Device After Regulatory Warning

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  • Is "a service of tweets" like a pride of lions or a murder of crows? Or another editor who can't F***ing write?
  • Hah. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Beats having to make it work... I guess.

  • So... defective? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday October 28, 2016 @11:57AM (#53169259)
    From the TFS and TFA:

    The letter and an accompanying special order demanded that Comma.ai provide the agency with information about the device and warned that the agency could prohibit the sale of the system if it were found to be defective.

    So this "intervention" was simply a letter asking for information and a warning that the NHTSA could order the developer to pull their product if found to be defective -- that's it. So, they preemptively pulled their product from the US market. I can only assume the product was either vaporware or defective.

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 ) on Friday October 28, 2016 @12:08PM (#53169337) Journal

      Man, the NTHSA has a lot of gall... telling them that if their product isn't safe, they will be forced to recall it.

      The next thing you know, Samsung will be forced to recall their phones just because they burst into flames, and the manufacturer of my baby's food will be forced to recall their product for a little glass contamination.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think consumers should be allowed to choose for themselves if they want a flammable phone. Let the market decide! Ron Paul 2016!

    • Re:So... defective? (Score:5, Informative)

      by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@g m a i l.com> on Friday October 28, 2016 @01:04PM (#53169669) Homepage Journal

      The wording of the letter [scribd.com] implies that a driver assistance device may be deemed "defective" even if "drivers will use your product in a manner that exceeds its intended purpose". The list of requested information includes basic specifications of the device, such as what it does, which vehicles it is for, how it is installed, how it is used, under what conditions it can be used, detailed results of testing in all such conditions, what it ends up doing when it shuts off, what it ends up doing if installed in an unsupported vehicle, detailed results of testing for compliance with each element of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, how it interacts with rearview mirrors, when it goes on sale, and the name of every entity that will sell the device.

      My understanding of Comma leaving the U.S. market is that it lacks the money to perform exhaustive tests, especially on all unsupported vehicles, and to hire legal counsel to interpret the FMVSS (49 CFR 571) and other pertinent regulations.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What's hilarious is that Andreessen-Horowitz gave them money. Did they not see this coming? This is the exact sort of thing that should come up in due diligence. "Say, have you done any safety or compliance work? Plan to? No? Then fuck off, we're not giving you money." No wonder he's going to China, they don't give a shit if people die.

        And in regards to the drivers using it "in a manner that exceeds its intended purpose", come on. They are trying to pull the whole "it's not really self-driving, so keep your

        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          "No wonder he's going to China, they don't give a shit if people die"

          Chinese traffic is so slow & complicated, drivers will die in stalled cars breathing bad air long before the AI makes a serious screwup.
          That said, Comma.ai is going to get people killed before they get it right, if ever.

    • Or their math showed that they had no market, and wanted to cut their losses now.

  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Friday October 28, 2016 @12:19PM (#53169393)
    Sometimes it absolutely stuns me how large the differences are between 'business leaders' and myself. I would have assumed from the start that the government would have to act in a way similar to what the letter specifies. In contrast, along comes George Holtz who didn't see this coming at all, and it comes at such a shock that he feels he needs to shelve his business? Seems very out of touch with reality and a functioning society to me, unless of course there is something else to the story.
    • This product was never going to see the light of day. If it ever had, he would spend the rest of his life fleeing from US law. They did him a favor.

    • 'business leaders' and myself

      In contrast, along comes George Holtz who didn't see this coming at all

      Maybe you should look into this a bit more. George Holtz is not a business leader, he's just some crafty guy who's quite good at coding.

      He's also smart enough to have seen this coming a mile away. He was never going sell this driving system to people. It was nothing more than an elaborate stunt to get a lot of money from car manufacturers. He knows his reality and how society functions quite well and he's taking full advantage of it.

      • Well you make it sound like outright fraud.
        • And the difference between the smart and the dumb is knowing just exactly what to say which would make the difference.

          But really it's not fraud. He has technology, he has development. What he doesn't have is any ability to make it see the light of day and to perform the proper testing to achieve that. This makes it sound like he was developing a product completely oblivious to the government rules, but if you can sell that idea and all the development onto someone else who has that ability, well ... in theo

  • Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion. I am not authorized to speak for my company.

    Most people have no idea what "information" is required when approval is required for a life critical system involving software.

    A "Stall Warning Card" with a 4k ROM program required the production and submission of more than 40,000 pages of documentation. It required more than 100 times more effort to produce the paper than the software.

    I suspect that once Comma.ai looked at the regulation, the standards reference and calcu

    • Whew. Good thing you had that disclaimer. I thought for a second you were speaking for your company! Why do people bother writing garbage like this? No one knows who you are or what your "company" is.
    • Most people have no idea what "information" is required when approval is required for a life critical system involving software.

      You are absolutely correct. Having worked for a diagnostic medical device manufacturer for some years, I am cognizant of what the dollar cost and time required is to perform FDA qualification testing for such devices before it may be certified for sale in the United States. It's extensive and comprehensive, and we weren't even building a machine that could potentially endanger someone's life if it was defective or failed in some way. A 'self-driving' vehicle, and especially a 'driverless' vehicle has the po

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This was an unfinished and unreleased product. I think they were out of line. Enforcing that products are safe is a good thing, and I don't have a problem with the NHTSA doing that. But this level of fine (up to just over 100 million USD) seems ridiculous for a product that hasn't been completed / released. Essentially they are fining someone with an idea they are trying to explore / develop, even though that person is not selling anything yet, and may never sell anything.

    Even the questions they asked s

    • FTA: "The more assertive approach from regulators follows the death in May of the driver of a Tesla Motors Inc Model S sedan that was operating on what the Silicon Valley electric automaker calls "Autopilot" mode."

      Enough said ass-hole.
    • by laird ( 2705 )

      The regulations kick in when they're going to production. If they're not prepared to do safety testing and think through how their product interacts with cars in order to make sure that it won't kill people, then they shouldn't be able to sell it. Giving up on that in the US, which is relatively lightly regulated, means that they're certainly out of the EU, Japan, etc. They can probably sell in China, as long as they give 51% of the company to someone with good connections to the Chinese government.

  • Take these "self driving" efforts for what they are: a PR exercise to swindle clueless investors. It is true that 90% of the problem of autonomous driving is solved. It's also true that the remaining 10% are exponentially hard and won't be solved in the next 20 years. By 10% I mean such trivial (to a human) things like driving in bad weather, or on dirty pavement, or figuring out if the object on the road is a plastic bag or a dog. These things are hard for a machine to do, exponentially so. There's a reaso

    • It is true that 90% of the problem of autonomous driving is solved. It's also true that the remaining 10% are exponentially hard and won't be solved in the next 20 years.

      Nice to see someone commenting on this subject that isn't so blindly enthusiastic about it that they adopt the potentially fatal 'what could possibly go wrong' attitude towards it.

      Unlike so many technology products, self-driving cars have the potential to cause massive loss of human lives if they're defective or fail. Even 99% isn't close enough, it must be 100% perfect 100% of the time, or it's not safe enough.

      Of course someone will now chime in with something along the lines of 'humans are not compe

      • by melted ( 227442 )

        I actually disagree with 99% assertion. The relative importance of problems matters here. To succeed, this technology needs to be _substantially_ safer than humans _in all cases that matter_, not in all possible cases. That having been said, even with a relaxed problem statement like this, with today's technology this is a nearly insurmountable goal.

        • My point is that if it's not going to be 100% reliable 100% of the time then you can't have a self-driving car that has no controls for a human driver. Knowing how systems are developed and the challenges in creating such a system I can't see such a vehicle ever being allowed for public use and would certainly never set foot inside one unless I was feeling suicidal. That handful of percentage points that it can't handle means you must still be competent to manually operate a vehicle and pay attention at all
          • by melted ( 227442 )

            Google actually did research on this. They've found that, counterintuitively, it's dangerous to have a "mostly" autonomous car that can yield to a human driver at any moment. People tend to underestimate how much context they're holding in their head as they are driving. Acquiring that context at a moment's notice is just not really possible, so people tend to make stupid decisions if they weren't already paying attention. So it has to be either 100% hands free, or it'll have to be sold as a glorified drive

            • But I maintain that it's suicidal to get into a 'self driving car' that has no way for you to control it, and I know for a fact that I'm far, far from being alone in that. You won't be able to sell the public on a so-called 'self-driving car' that has no way for them to control it with their own two hands and own two feet, and they won't be satisfied with some sort of voice control, or even a big red 'Emergency Stop' button. It'll have to be a 'glorified driver safety system', then, and I think the vast maj
  • So-called 'self-driving vehicles' are a subject that must be approached with the utmost of caution considering that a defective system of this type could cause massive loss of human lives. Companies developing such systems must be required to at least as cautious, and preferably doubly so, than medical device or pharmaceutical manufacturers are in the testing of their products for safety.

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