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WIKISPEED QnA with LE TEMPS

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Here are excerpts from a Question and Answer session between Joe Justice, Team Lead of Team WIKISPEED, and the French newspaper LE TEMPS:

–       Why do you think that crowdsourcing is now the solution for the future mobility solutions ? Could you tell me in a few words your vision of tomorrow automobile?

A more participatory model, where future users don’t simply pick from a list of options but collaborate in the design and value statements they wish their transportation to provide. Modularity makes this more possible than it has been, as does the affordability of 3d printing and it’s partner technology- subtractive rapid prototyping. I see groups like WIKISPEED making the road legality, safety, and compliance side of the solution a simple service, so that clubs and groups and individuals can design transportation using those modules as the base.

–       In your opinion, the classical automobile industry is not able any more to invent cars for tomorrow (and today)? Why ?

The classical automotive industry is amazing and capable. However it is a closed system in most cases- a student or a house-wife isn’t able to make changes to that process or its products. And it takes a fair amount of time, multiple years, for even those inside the industry to realize their dreams. If the speed of change can increase, and if the industry can be same-day responsive to customer’s wishes, then we’ll see cars catch up with smart phones. And this is happening now, WIKISPEED produces new models every 7 days, and there is no reason a better funded company couldn’t accomplish single day iterations.

–       Can you explain in a few word the idea and the concept of Wikispeed ?

Wikispeed is a volunteer based, green automotive-prototyping company, with a goal to change the world for the better.

We’re a collaborative team of skilled individuals who volunteer time to creating safe, low-cost, ultra-efficient, road-legal vehicles.

We’re passionately committed to rapidly solving problems for social good.  With goals such as reducing the pollution and the stress on global resources, generated by traditional gas powered automobiles.

All money earned by, or donated to, Wikispeed is invested back into the company to assure movement forward with WIKISPEEDs vision.

–       Anticipating upstream the wishes of potential customers through the Internet so as to provide small production structures flexible and reactive, rather than asking monsters existing industry to adapt to changes and trends: this way of describing the philosophy of Wikispeedis correct?

That sounds right, and we enable this by prototyping Micro-Factories- small factories packaged inside shipping containers that we are able to send to the area where production is needed and use local materials and local skill to produce our products. These are then able to be load-balanced, shipped or trucked to the area they are most needed next, enabling manufacturing agility.

–       How is concretly built the SGT01 prototype ? All the parts of the car are coming from the auto industry ?

The SGT01 (Super Grand Touring 01) is built from 8 modules. Each module is improved each week. Our most efficient engine module uses a Honda sourced 4 cylinder, 1.8l gasoline engine. We have another version in development with an engine of our own design. Many versions of many modules “wrap” vended components from existing automotive suppliers, and some versions of some modules are completely team WIKISPEED’s design which we have published in Open Source for crowd contribution.

–       Do you plan to have all the parts eventually created by the community? At the moment are there more designers than engineers in the community?

We aim for a completely open source car with all parts in the Creative Commons. I also hope that the design will always inter-operate well with vended components from current automotive suppliers, to enable all the folks working hard now in closed-source companies as well as all the passionate deep thinkers in the collaborative economy, and let them continue to learn from each other and work even more closely together.

–       Where the cars will be built ? Micro factories ?

Our cars are currently built in brick-and-mortar shops around the world. Only 5 things are required for someone to set up their own WIKISPEED shop:

1) 24x7x365 access to anyone who has signed a Team Member form. Let’s not block people who want to solve problems.

2) a clearly labeled “Safety Shelf” with all responsible safety gear for the tasks happening in that shop.

3) a clearly labelled “Snack Shelf”- just as important as the safety shelf! Donations keep shops stocked with beer and healthy snacks.

4) all tools out and visible. We typically use clear plastic bins to group tools, and label them. No drawers or cabinets unless they are clear.

5) A Kanban board (backlog board) of tests, so that folks know what to do next and how to know when they are done.

All that said, the next step is micro-factories, which we are prototyping now inside our shops.

–       How many cars have been ordered?

We have sold 5 cars and have build hundreds of prototypes, module by module. Our short term goal is to sell 10 prototypes in order to organically fund and refactor our mass-production intent ultra-efficient, comfortable commuter car.

–       The activities of Wikispeed are concerning a few market at the moment. Do you think they could fit in the future a wider market? Andthat the industry could adapt to this vision of the car?

We first focus on enthusiasts, as they are willing to help us evolve something new will give us the most passionate feedback to make our cars much better. We then aim to create products that 20% of the world’s automotive commuters will seriously consider driving in on the way to work. We then aim to meet taxi, postal service, fleet, construction, freight, and similar more specialized needs. That said, almost 80M new cars and trucks were built and sold last year globally, and WIKISPEED’s goal isn’t aiming to volumes in that range. Instead, we’d like to help existing suppliers and manufacturers develop more relevant products using agile practices like Extreme Manufacturing, which WIKISPEED uses.

–       Do you know if this industry in the US is thinking about crowdsourcing ? (like Fiat in Brasil for instance, BMW, Opel, or VW in Europe) ?

Yes, many of them are working to resolve how to protect their intellectual property while collaborating with the public on product design. I’ve had the pleasure of working with two large manufacturing companies and one electronics design firm to resolve this, and I hope many more are able to follow those examples and engage their customers alongside the interested public during product conception and design.

–       What are the reactions of the historical auto industry in the US ?

Luckily, it has been overwhelmingly positive to date. I believe this stems from many companies wanting to work in a more agile way, reduce lead times and costs while having happier staff and happier customers. An example like team WIKISPEED seems to be useful to them as they undergo their own agile transformations  I hope we have a very different automotive industry, world-wide, in just 10 years. And I hope some of them make the change in the next 2 years- and whomever that is may very well be not the new “big 3” but the next “big 1”. This may become very exciting!

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