Comma.ai, developer of OpenPilot open-source AI-based autonomous driving software, was founded by legendary PlayStation and iPhone hacker George Hotz. Axel Nix is an electrical engineer who has a patent law company, Sucxess LLC, which demands payment from companies in the autonomous vehicle industry. Companies like Sucxess depend on the quiet, rational compliance of their targets—it is cheaper to pay up than fight. In this regard, though, trying to shake down George Hotz may be a significant error.
We’ve posted the complaint here. From reading the complaint, he seems to have a 15 year old patent on some auto emergency call system if a car crashes or something, nothing at all to do with what comma.ai does. But that isn’t the point, he is banking on the case never going to trial. The point is he mistook us as an easy target, someone he could shake down for a settlement.
What he didn’t take into account is that comma isn’t run by rational actors in suits sitting on a committee. It’s run by me, George Hotz. I’m willing to lose $1M before I give him $10k. We will hire an amazing legal team, fight this, and while doing so invalidate his patents so they can’t be used against anyone else. Not because it’s rational, but because it’s the right thing to do. No patent troll will ever get a dollar from comma.
Sadly Voyage, AutoX, and Pony.ai appear to have settled, which fuels this illegitimate profession. Hopefully the world understands why appeasement is a bad idea. Dataspeed understood this, and got their dumb Sucxess LLC case dismissed with prejudice and without handing over a dollar to Axel.
So much “game theory” at play. One thing someone like Hotz can readily do (as opposed to, say, Newegg) is to constantly identify the human actors in play to encourage media to do likewise. He’s happy being famous for what he is, but the other guy might not want to be. Indeed, there is a nonzero chance here that Hotz will release a diss track about him.