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Open letter to Sebastian Thrun

The article about Google working on driverless cars has been making the rounds. It is interesting that Google can generate news about a side project of a side project, and yet the car companies are unable to demonstrate anything newsworthy in this area.

I’ve emailed Sebastian Thrun and a few others before and so I am sending them an open letter in response to his latest news article.


Hi all;

I saw your recent article in the NYT that got sent all over the world and I thought to write you again.

I have three suggestions for you:

1. License your software as GPL v3. I came from Microsoft so I understand that you call your code “secret sauce”. I wrote a book about this topic that you might find an interesting summary of the issues; the thing to remember is it will take more than just your little team to finish this. The reason millions around the world know the name Linus Torvalds is because his code was licensed as GPL v2 and therefore lots of other people joined in — and were forced to contribute back (unlike the lax BSD license.)

2. Move to Python + assembly language. I spend two chapters on this topic, so I will say here that Python is a productive, reliable, rich and free language. Any language with garbage collection is good, but Python has the richest set of libraries with things like SciPy (http://scipy.org/Topical_Software)

3. Use a free simulator like Rigs of Rods. The only way you can ever build confidence in such a system is to create crazy scenarios and test the code end to end. It is only when you’ve got every possible scenario tested that you can say to the world that this is ready. Your real-world test runs can be used to make your simulations better. You all might not be interested in this aspect right now, but there will need to be some people who are! I could imagine a big testing team working exclusively on simulators.

I’m happy to discuss any of this further. I appreciate your time.

Kind regards,


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