You might have heard about Wikispeed, the open source car project started by Joe Justice in Seattle. You may think that “open source car” is a paradoxical idea. Actually, it makes a lot of sense.
They publish an open source design for a car that they build themselves with standard materials that can be found in any hardware store. The idea is that anyone with an Internet access, including you, can download the design, make their own car out of it, test it, improve the design, and republish it. That’s how hundreds of people have already participated.
If you think it’s a bunch of nuts in their garage in a complete insanity, you should think again. They’ve built a car that goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 5 seconds and tops at 240 km/h. Its fuel consumption is as low as 1,5 L/100km. And they’re working on the C3, which should be comfortable and cost less than 10 000 $. Plus you can build it locally, even yourself if you feel like it, and adapt it to your needs.
But they’re not alone. OSVehicle designs Tabby, an open source car that can be built in 42 min, for less than 4000€. Opendesk designs open source furniture, that you can cut out in any wood workshop close to you, and then assemble like a flat-pack from Ikea. Wikihouse makes open source wood houses that you can cut out and build like a lego house. Openknit makes an open source knitting machine, on which you can make clothes that you download. Think about the 3D printers, think about all the creative commons contents.
Is it really credible, you may ask. The experience we have so far is with software. Free software has existed for more than 30 years now. In the beginning, it all looked like a bunch of nuts in their basements. Crazy people with a crazy idealistic vision. But it proved to be super efficient. No one doubts today that Linux is a very strong technical basis for an operating system. Apache is the most used web server software. Firefox has deposed Internet Explorer as the most used browser. And a countless number of other applications prove everyday how strong that model can be.
So it is not a bunch of nuts in their garage. It is a consistent movement, hitting all domains, and changing the way we work. A lot of questions still need to be answered, but there is no doubt it will impact our society in a long lasting way. And it is happening. Today.