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Hacking a self-driving car

June 10, 2016
George Hotz presented his holodeck project, a swept surface 3D display at Intel ISEF 2007.
George Hotz presented his holodeck project, a swept surface 3D display at Intel ISEF 2007.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC.

George Hotz is working on a futuristic technology. He's designing a self-driving car — and trying to beat Tesla's Mobileye and Google's models. His work on self-driving cars has been featured in several media outlets.

George said he did terribly in high school until he found science fairs, which allowed him to create things and compete against others. He's a multi-year Intel ISEF finalist (2004, 2005, and 2007) and an Intel STS 2007 semifinalist.

Read the interview to find out more about the importance of hacking — and why science fairs were the best thing for George.


I hack computers and electronics to find out how they work and then make them work for me. 

HACK FIRST, QUESTION LATER: I'm using off-the-shelf electronics to build a self-driving car. The Grand Challenge teams (mentioned in the Bloomberg article) spent millions on their hardware and sensors.

I hack computers and electronics to find out how they work and then make them work for me. The best people I know are self-taught, and the way a lot of these courses are taught is a quick way to get people frustrated and turned off — too much math and theory or too hand-holding and contrived.

MOTIVATION THROUGH COMPETITION: The first year I competed [at Intel ISEF], I created a mapping robot which makes maps of rooms. I won nothing at Intel ISEF the first year, and I got to meet people better than me.

The second year at Intel ISEF I made the googler, which fetches objects in rooms. I improved a bit to 4th place.

After not making the trip the third year, I worked super hard on something incredible for the last year, where I created a holodeck, a swept surface 3D display. In a lot of ways, the self-driving car is just another science fair project.

Though I do feel I owe a lot to Intel ISEF and the lab I worked in in my high school, they just had a lot of stuff and let me play with it, giving me guidance when I couldn't get something to work.

I did terrible in high school until I found these science fairs. They were the best thing for me.

SCIENCE FAIRS OPEN THE DOOR TO CREATIVITY: I did terrible in high school until I found these science fairs. They were the best thing for me.

The science fair was a stage you could show off on, and most importantly, it was a competition. I could build things. And there was the salesmanship, too, that I loved.