It always starts quite innocently. You go to a conference; you realize that the subject matter of the talk is hopelessly outdated for you, fall into a familiar state of seminar consciousness and the light bulb goes off. Your idea is going to be the next best thing.
That's what happened to Markus Merz, formerly of BMW. In his words, "his idea will redefine mobility, it will be something tangible, real, created somewhere between your computer and your garage". Something built "with each other and not against each other", as the Internet would allow.
He articulated his vision in a manifesto on November 1999:
- the birth - how he came up with the concept
- the goal - a concept for a vehicle free from barriers and competition
- the way - some ambitious time lines
- the tools - brains, hardware, and faith in ingenuity and inventiveness
- the community - no boss, no hierarchies, none of that stuff "that is believed to be important"
Merz built a web to host 4 main forums moderated by experts on separate areas of the concept:
1. integration of all design, concept, package and distribution requirements;
2. modules for the power systems of the car, including safety and information;
3. tools for communications, project management, simulation and technical assistance for Open Source hardware; [note that the site was built using Joomla! software]
4. network to capture help needed requests, match scientific and corporate partners and capture legal aspects like licenses, warranties, etc.
So far, so good. So what is OScar's (for Open Source car) biggest challenge? For one, it might be difficult to find someone who will want to build the car. Creation in an open-source environment is just the beginning.
There are many initiatives today that hover at the edges of the economic engine established in the past. While OScar is a project, I wonder if, married to a set of guidelines or core competencies identified by Tim O'Reilly in an article published a little over one year ago for Web 2.0 companies, it might become a company -- even if only to realize on the scope of its mission, to make a car. Let's take a look at those core competencies, as defined by O'Reilly:
- Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
- Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
- Trusting users as co-developers
- Harnessing collective intelligence
- Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
- Software above the level of a single device
- Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models
What do you think? Can we learn from OScar?