Building an open source hackable car…

Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on Building an open source hackable car…

Building an open source hackable car…

We are makers, not hunters. Kids love Lego. We love to build. Perhaps the first event that made us modern humans was the invention of the stone axe. Ever since we discovered the concept of increased productivity through mechanization, we were hooked on invention.

If we want to return to “manufacturing greatness” then we have to think anew. We need to redefine what making things means. This transformation is already underway with the emergence of a “Maker Culture.

The movement is seen mostly as a kind of hobbyist activity, but what if we could scale it up? What if we could take the Linux approach and disrupt other industries, such as making cars? What if we could escape the mundanity of mass-manufacturing and discover a new world of mass customisation?

The car hasn’t really evolved since Henry Ford‘s famous refrain:

You can have any color so long as it’s black.

I find it frustrating that I spend so much money on a car, and so much time sitting in one, yet I’m subject to the tyranny of a fixed design that has little to no prospect of customisation. Cars are almost completely unhackable.

Kit cars (or should that be Kitt?) have been around for some time. During my teenage years, I watched with envy the guy over the road building a yellow sports car atop of a VW Beetle chassis. Dave Smith of Factory Five says:

Building your own car puts you in a special and exclusive club.

I hope not!

I have a vision where building your own car – like Lego – is the new normal.

Why not?

Here in the Bay Area, I can pop to my local Tech Shop and build pretty much anything. This is the age of open source, AutoDesk, 3D printing, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis and retrofit hybrid kits.

Sure, I’m not expecting that the whole car is squeezed from some sausage-CNC-milling-printer gizmo, but with the right standard parts (based on a popular vehicle, licensed from – who knows – Ford maybe), open source control software and a “designed-to-be-hacked” architecture, a hybrid (as in mixed, not electric – but that too) kit-assembly-line car is easily within grasp.

Will it work? Will it be safe? Will it beat 100 MPG?

Who knows?

The real question – and point – is what would the budding Henry Ford of today do with all this technology at his disposal? And how do we create a nation or budding Henry Fords?

By teaching our children to dream of reinventing old industries, to become the new Wright Brothers, Fords and Elon Musks. By incorporating more “project based learning” in our schools. Or by simply reinventing schools altogether, liked the DaVinci schools in LA.

[Paul Golding is currently researching the idea of creating a project-based school in Silicon Valley around the very idea of re-inventing the car. Reach out if you’d like to know more.]

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