We could be closer to consumer options for open source cars than ever before. Which begs the question, could the recent floor mat entrapment and pedal recalls from Toyota be solved in a more open way? Or better yet, could they have been prevented if they were designed and built the open source way?
An article at Techdirt, "As Cars Get More Complicated, Maybe Open Source Is The Way," argues that “Toyota could stand to gain more than it would potentially be giving away” while talking about open sourcing the software in their vehicles.
It's already happening with open source car projects like OScar. The second version of OScar is now available from theoscarproject.org.
“The idea behind the OScar project is simple: A community of people plans and develops a new car in the web. The idea is about the goal to develop a simple and innovative car, but also about the way how this goal is achieved.”
Alan Shimel is also talking about open source cars over at Network World: "Are You Ready For An Open Source Car? Software isn't the only thing open; open source could change the auto game."
Shimel writes, “The auto industry could be one place where open source hardware and design stand things on its head. The auto industry is certainly ready for change.” I agree. The auto industry seems stagnant. Particularly in the United States. Open source could change that. It could start with an open design, then open software, and even the assembly. It might even create jobs.
If the big automakers don't watch out, upcoming operations like Local Motors might be taking over. They crowdsourced the design of their Rally Car as well as, “the selection of mostly off-the-shelf components, and the final assembly will be done by the customers themselves in local assembly centers,” wrote Chris Anderson in Wired magazine.
The idea of an open source car is just awesome, with potential benefits like better fuel-efficiency, faster innovation, and safer cars. An open design based on open standards could also lead to more interchangeable parts, which means more flexibility and choice to consumers. Even with all this, I still think there are opportunities for the automakers to compete. It might be cool to build my own car, but I don't have the time. Do you?
The automakers' role could shift from telling me what kind of car they think I want, to customizing a car to my preferences, building, and delivering it. I'd still buy a car because of the brand, testing, and reputation of an automaker. But the open source approach could reduce the cost of their research and design, improve standards in the auto industry, and still allow them to brand their vehicles.