Self-Driving Engineering with George Hotz

In the smartphone market there are two dominant operating systems: one closed source (iPhone) and one open source (Android). The market for self-driving cars could play out the same way, with a company like Tesla becoming the closed source iPhone of cars, and a company like developing the open source Android of self-driving cars.

George Hotz is the CEO of Comma makes hardware devices that allow users with “normal” cars to be augmented with advanced cruise control and lane assist features. This means you can take your own car–for example, a Toyota Prius–and outfit your car to have something similar to the Tesla Autopilot. Comma’s hardware devices cost under $1000 to order online.

George joins the show to explain how the Comma hardware and software stack works in detail–from the low level interface with a car’s CAN bus to the high level machine learning infrastructure.

Users who purchase the hardware drive around with a camera facing the front of their windshield. This video is used to orient the state of the car in space. The video from that camera also gets saved and uploaded to Comma’s servers. Comma can use this video together with labeled events from the user’s driving experience to crowdsource their model for self-driving.

For example, if a user is driving down a long stretch of highway, and they turn on the driving assistance, the car will start driving itself and the video capture will begin. If the car begins to swerve into another lane, the user will take over for the car and the Comma system will disengage. This “disengagement” event gets labeled as such, and when that data makes it back to Comma’s servers, Comma can use the data to update their models.

George is very good at explaining complex engineering topics, and is also quite entertaining and open to discussing the technology as well as other competitors in the autonomous car space. I have not been able to get many other people on the show to talk about autonomous cars, so this was quite refreshing! I hope to do more in the future.


Transcript provided by We Edit Podcasts. Software Engineering Daily listeners can go to to get 20% off the first two months of audio editing and transcription services. Thanks to We Edit Podcasts for partnering with SE Daily. Please click here to view this show’s transcript.


DoiT International helps startups optimize the costs of their workloads across Google Cloud and AWS, so that they can spend more time building new software–and less time reducing cost. DoiT International helps clients optimize their costs–and if your cloud bill is over $10,000 per month, you can get a free cost-optimization assessment by going to

An in-house team of engineers spent thousands of hours developing the Casper mattress. Casper offers free delivery and free returns with a 100-night home trial. As a special offer to Software Engineering Daily listeners, get $50 toward select mattresses by visiting and using code SEDAILY at checkout.

Citus is worry-free Postgres that is built to scale out. Made for SaaS and enterprises, Citus is an extension to Postgres that transforms Postgres into a distributed database. Whether you need to scale out a multi-tenant app—or are building real-time analytics dashboards that require sub-second responses—Citus makes it simple to shard Postgres. Go to to learn more about how Citus can scale your Postgres database.

GoCD is a continuous delivery tool created by ThoughtWorks. It’s great to see the continued progress on GoCD with the new Kubernetes integrations–and you can check it out for yourself at

Software Weekly

Software Weekly

Subscribe to Software Weekly, a curated weekly newsletter featuring the best and newest from the software engineering community.