Something has been running through my head and I want to see what other people think. Am I the only one crazy enough to really want an open-source automobile? My background is in automotive, and I can see ardu-based (or something similar) hardware and software being easily integrated to cars. I just saw a Wired article on 3-D printing a car, and it got my brain spinning even more. Any ideas?

Clearly oil and auto manufacturers would hate the idea and do everything in their power to shut it down, such as the story of General Motor's EV-1 in the early 1990's.

Wired article is here:

EV-1 information is here:

Views: 1401

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on February 27, 2013 at 1:34pm

I used to be an engineer at Ford, so I have some insight into this I think.  IMO, if you're talking about open-sourcing an entire car design, meant to pass NHTSA standards and be acceptable as a consumer product for the masses rather than a trophy for rich eccentric people, then I think it's impossible.

A modern automobile is mind-numbingly complex.  I mean, no single part of it is as complex as say, making a full autopilot system run on an 8-bit processor. ;)  But there are just SO MANY tasks, which interrelate in ways you can't imagine. There's just too much going on, and it requires a massive, rigid bureaucracy to pull it off.  It could never work in a typical open source system where... seems much of the time, people run off and do their own thing, and then try and figure out how it "plugs in" to the existing system after, and you have nobody really looking at knock-on effects.

As for this Kor car, it's interesting.  I really love additive technology, because it allows us to design thing in an almost organic fashion.  You can actually make almost any structure you want, rather than having to work within the constraints of manufacturing, only being able to bend or machine things a certain way.  But I really don't know if you could 3D print a car that would be as safe as a modern car.  Well, I guess it could if it was large and heavy enough.  But I think you'd be surprised at what they are really doing to cars these days with modern super high strength alloys and super-plastic forming.  It actually CAN be hard to match the strength/weight/toughness of modern steel.

He talks about building a race-car cage to make it safe.  Thing is, a roll cage will not pass NHTSA testing.  Well, maybe NHTSA, but NHTSA regs are SO 1980.  IIHS regulations are much harder, and most cars blow them away now.  When was the last time a car was made that didn't get a 5-star crash test rating?  Yes, race cars are very safe.  But the occupants are not simply held in with the pathetic systems we use today.  You can't put a person in a wide seat with a 3 point belt, and let them bounce around inside a car with a cage.  Cars these days are like bouncy-castles inside.

And sure, you could 3D print a dashboard, but it won't be as nice as a modern dashboard.  Well, it could probably be as nice as the dashboard in a Mazda 3, but you don't pay $50k for a Mazda 3, so you expect to get a big ugly hard slab of plastic.

And actually to prove all my points...  1200lbs is actually pretty heavy for what that thing is.  Peugeot can make a hatchback out of steel, with 4 wheels, 5 seats, and a gas engine and hybrid system and come in at 1700lbs!  How did they do it?  Stripped out all the sound deadening and a lot of other niceties that people don't notice until they're gone. It's probably a horrible place to spend any time in, but I really don't think the Kor car will be any better.

Comment by Nick Tuttle on February 27, 2013 at 2:47pm

I like the idea! While I don't like the word impossible, R_Lefebvre has a good argument. It would probably need a really good way to manage the project and would probably take a lot of time to mature..

Comment by J on February 27, 2013 at 2:54pm

They already got one of them:


It looks a little stalled at the moment.

They are also using STM32. Port that to VRBrain. Grab your choice of state of the art high voltage inverters from Pick-A-Part . Hook into their Java/Adroid code. Drive it like you stole it.

Comment by Jack Crossfire on February 27, 2013 at 3:00pm

Someone needs to open source Taco Bell sauce or at least put the word open source next to it.

Comment by J on February 27, 2013 at 3:11pm

Open sauce?

Comment by Maxime Carrier on February 27, 2013 at 3:16pm

Hum open-source transmission ? engine ? I don't think those people have never dismount an automatic transmission, maybe for an electric car that could be possible because there not so many mechanical part in comparison if you have a good frame (safety compliant) but we are far far away from the day those part will become cheap.

Maybe someday but for the next 15 years I don't believe it.

Comment by LanMark on February 27, 2013 at 3:17pm

personally I think it is a bad idea.   If only car manufacturing was only about assembly.. IF ONLY.. but there are so many aspects more than that and even with open source you need significant investments that only could be made with some serious capital which doesn't exist with Open source.   Just look at OpenSource software... Linux is nice and has its place but the winners in the area are not open source but closed systems that invest lots on R&D because of the closed loop.. heck Apple has pulled back a lot of stuff to in-house like the chip design/manufacturing.

The only way I could see it working is that a large car company like Ford opens up some of the process to the community.. much like 3DR..  I really don't think the APM would work without 3DRs involvement... which seems to be the case in other industries with huge backers like Google with Android or IBM and Linux and such.

Comment by Greg McHugh on February 27, 2013 at 3:33pm

Look at as an example of setting up a kit based vehicle that may show a way ahead. Their first vehicle is a desert rally vehicle that is street legal (and expensive) but they have plans for other vehicles. Their goal is to set up distributed facilities where you could construct a vehicle from the kit which is designed as an open source project. They do use off the shelf powertrain components in order to meet emission requirements, it is even legal in California.

Comment by LanMark on February 27, 2013 at 3:54pm

I think the biggest reason open source cars won't work is probably cost.  Large companies get huge discounts because they buy in very large bulk.. have you priced out your car if you were to just buy the pieces?  There is a big difference buying switches, wire harnesses, and such when you buy them in millions of units then one by one... and 3D printing will likely never be able to print every element of something as complex as a car.. like the motor, wires, switches, etc.

Comment by Gary McCray on February 27, 2013 at 4:03pm

Sadly, Open source cars have come and gone.

Hot Rods were something every kid did back in the 50's and 60's.

With the safety and SMOG regulations they have now you so couldn't even drive it around your own block even if you could afford to make it.

Great lawn ornament though.


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