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Crowd-sourced Disruption in the Automotive Industry



Any heavily invested industry runs the risk of creative destruction. For the automotive industry, the infrastructure built on the old 3-year model of concept design, engineering, repackaging, modeling, testing, refining, approving and retooling factories for efficiency before production ever begins has become sluggish and increasingly obsolete. Advances in manufacturing have given new competition the edge on rapid development to meet changing markets. This does not bode well for those traditional workers whose job is to bring new concepts down the long road to market. These advances can however, create new opportunities to take bold steps that redefine the industry.

The oil industry is hurting with a barrel of crude now cheaper than the barrel it’s sold in. The industry as a whole is volatile and uncertain but one positive spin on decreasing gas prices is the increased demand for gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. 2015 set a new auto sales record of more than 17 million units breaking a 15-year record.

For every boom, there is an inevitable bust. As new technology makes production cheaper and more efficient, so too does it make the end products more versatile, feature rich, more economic and superior.

The modern car has 1,800 parts, 30,000 if each screw is counted. Each part has to be considered, engineered to work with the final product and made safe for the general consumer. It’s no wonder, according to The Detroit News, there were nearly 64 million vehicles recalled in 2014 but that is still better than the old settlement policy of paying off the victims of accidents caused by equipment malfunctions and the fatalities swept “under the rug” because it was cheaper than a recall. The cost and pressure to keep up the latest trends and new technology even forces companies to lie about performance, as in the Volkswagen emissions scandal dubbed “diesel-gate” in 2015.

Trexa EV PlatformNow compare that to the 15 or so parts that make up the new connected electric vehicle platforms. Sure there are more parts when you add the cab, seats and steering wheel etc. but the entire power train, chassis, batteries and engine are self-contained in a modular & variable platform that can be changed or adjusted for any configuration or use. The platform can even be updated by adding new parts without having to redesign the entire vehicle.

In January of 2016, Faraday Futures, a new tech and automotive startup, announced after only 18 months that it would be rolling out its first mass market vehicle in the next two years. There has been some speculation that the company’s lofty ambitions are just tout but according to their announcement at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in January, they are already tooling prototype parts and gearing up to break ground on a $1 billion manufacturing facility outside Las Vegas. Nevada has expressed some concerns over the financial health of one of the main backers, a tech company called Leshi, whose shares ceased trading in December due to internal reorganization and are expected to be delayed until March 7th according to Business Insider. Nevada’s state treasurer, Dan Schwartz has said he still supports Faraday Future’s new factory and is working to ensure that factory will proceed as intended.


OSVehicle Tabby EVO
Riversimple Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Trexa EV Platform
Local Motors Rally Fighter
Local Motors Strati 3D Printed Car
Tesla Motors Model X
Faraday Future FFZero1
Open Source, Crowdsourcing and Advanced Manufacturing

One of the greatest opportunities and threats to the automotive industry today is that engineers and developers are redefining mobility and publishing their work under an open source license. The open research and development of high-tech and extremely efficient technology coupled with the lowering cost of production, have turned start-ups, small companies and even hobbyists into vehicle manufacturers.

Open source was traditionally referred to software development but its scope has expanded into manufacturing and technology as a whole. The company Red Hat defines open source as any “project, product, or initiative that embraces and celebrates open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.”

Even advanced manufacturing process like 3D Printing have open source alternatives. Through the utilization of open source R & D and crowdsourcing, nearly anyone now has the ability to develop concepts into tangible products much more quickly than was previously possible.

Automotive World reported that “manufacturing is the riskiest part, financially, of the automotive manufacturing process. But the open source model would allow for experimentation and the perfecting of ideas before big manufacturing investments would need to be made.”

Even Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk has open sourced the patents on his electric vehicles in an effort to make the technology more widespread and to develop it more quickly. Forbes reported a statement from Tesla that they, “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology…” and that, “the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”

This movement is taking manufacturing advancements and intellectual property out of the hands of companies that have invested billions of dollars in development and placing them in the hands of the backyard tinkerer and enthusiast.

Startups are now using these developments to produce faster, safer and more efficient cars.

Riversimple launches their hydrogen fuel cell car on February 17, 2016. Their design is open source, allowing anyone to look at, work on and improve the design. OSVehicle’s Tabby EVO is also built on a modular open source platform allowing anyone to improve any individual component for increased versatility on specific applications. Their platform utilizes a cutting edge engine, chassis, and electronics. It can be shipped in crates and assembled by two people in under an hour. Their website even states it could one day be outfitted with high-tech components to be used on Mars.

Local Motors has had an open source car called the Rally Fighter for several years built using off-the-shelf components. In 2014 they held a crowdsourcing competition to design and build the Strati, the first 3D printed car using thermoplastic.

Of course, electric vehicles only account for less than one percent of cars on the road in the United States today but according to Clean Technica and EV Obsession, 5 nations had sales growth over 50% in the last year. The UK at 247.2%, China at 185.8%, France at 86.7%, Germany at 67.3% and Norway at 66.4%. There is a definite world trend here.

According to Amory Lovins the chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute in an article published by Green Car Reports, “economic forces may slowly be turning against the long-term prospects for oil's role as the dominant fuel for vehicles--and those of natural gas as the preferred fuel for electric generation.” Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute have been developing a hyper-car concept that radically increases the efficiency of automobiles. Even going as far as stating the potential of EVs to serve as electric generators to meet the nation's demand for energy. Lovins has dedicated his life to studying and advancing alternative energy solutions.

Some of these new vehicles might not look like much now but they represent a shift in thinking about mobility, efficiency, design and manufacturing so that large companies are no longer simply competing against each other but potentially against an entire generational movement.

Millennials are looking for more personalized customization for their individual needs and greener environmentally responsible alternatives. They want to get involved and contribute and the open source movement is allowing them to do it and taking advantage of that enthusiasm by putting them to work.

The challenge then for the automotive industry is to find even more creative ways to appeal to this new generation in order to remain relevant. All things considered, it will be a monumental undertaking to succeed if the industry wants to survive against the coming wave of technological advancement and enthusiasts.



SOURCES

http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2014/06/12/tesla-goes-open-source-elon-musk-releases-patents-to-good-faith-use/#947f0d618e40
https://www.osvehicle.com/
http://bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com/2016/01/u-s-auto-sales-set-new-record-in-2015.html/
https://www.thezebra.com/insurance-news/2379/how-the-open-source-car-could-change-the-auto-industry/
https://localmotors.com/
http://riversimple.com/
https://www.redhat.com/en/insights/open-source
http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1102255_multiple-trends-turning-slowly-against-oil-says-rmi
http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2016_02_01_as_oil_prices_gyrate_underlying_trends_are_shifting_to_oils_disadvantage
http://www.torquenews.com/1080/how-car-design-works-start-finish
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2015/08/16/stringent-auto-recalls-new-normal/31834869/
http://www.businessinsider.com/nevada-faraday-future-factory-delays-2016-2
http://cleantechnica.com/2015/08/08/1-million-electric-cars-will-be-on-the-road-in-september/

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Our home office is centrally located just outside Dallas. Over the years we have built a nationwide presence by completing many projects throughout the U.S. We specialize in automation, equipment & conveyor installations, rigging, mezzanine & structural steel fabrication and erection, machine moving & rigging, plant equipment decommissioning, and plant maintenance. Our projects range from half-day preventative maintenance procedures to turnkey assembly/production line installations.

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