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Open Source Car on the Horizon

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the will-it-burn-penguins-for-fuel dept.

Hardware Hacking 214

PreacherTom writes "So here's a question: can open-source practices and approaches be applied to make hardware, to create tangible and physical objects, including complex ones? Markus Merz believes they can. The young German is the founder of the OScar project, whose goal is to develop and build a car according to open-source principles. Merz and his team aren't going for a super-accessorized SUV — they're aiming at designing a simple and functionally smart car. The OScar is not the only open-source hardware project out there: others include Zero Prestige, which designs kites and kite-powered vehicles, and Open Prosthetics, which offers free exchange of designs for prosthetic devices."

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Great (2, Funny)

Necreia (954727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17166972)

As long as it doesn't end up with a bunch of people bickering over what color to make the the cup holder.

Re:Great (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167116)

rtfa. thats exactly what took place. for 3 years. and the project hasnt been making any real progress since then. still pre release thoughtware.

Blue, dammit. (4, Funny)

93,000 (150453) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167326)

Blue or I walk.

Re:Blue, dammit. (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167720)

Well then, why don't you fix it, and then submit patches back?

Re:Great (1)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167758)

Why would they be bickering about anything?

Isn't "open source" supposed to be about developing platforms and extending them for personal gain, then releasing your changes back to the community so that others may use the improvements as they see fit? Wouldn't it be better if each car "developer" goes and designs a car, then they all come back and show each other the designs so that the committee can pick and choose? Design-by-committee never works, but choice-by-committee of finished designs and components does.

Re:Great (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168112)

The difference being when that person changes the code so much that it interferes with the operation of other parts.

It would be like someone handing you a car, you make the seat roll back further, but in doing so you only change the range of the seat so it can't slide all the way back up. When you put that seat back into the factory to put in the new cars, those people that used to slide the seat all the way up to reach the pedals now have to modify the design of the car to fit their need. Sure, over time, someone might be smart enough to extend the bar to fit both types of drivers, but there will be another person that thinks that bar reaches too far into the back seats and their kids trip over them every time they get in or out. Now you have to redesign the slide rails for the seat and integrate them into the side panel of car.

I suppose it "could" work, but your going to have iterations of the car that conflict with other people's opinions. You can look at any of the big "tech wars" going on today in technology and see that people don't like things changing all the time and are very opinionated.

simple? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17166976)

that exterior panel design is simple?

Yeah but... (0, Offtopic)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#17166994)

Does it run Linux?
In Soviet America cars run YOU!
Will somebody please think of the children?
In North Korea only old people use cars!
Finally something to fill those tubes with

Re:Yeah but... (1, Funny)

le0p (932717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167018)

You forgot to tag it: itsatrap

Pic (2, Funny)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167008)

Here's what it looks like: pic [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pic (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167082)

Here's what it looks like: pic

      That's obviously the car on the Gnome desktop. Damn it! Why won't people learn that posting screenshots of new distros makes no sense if they all use the KDE/Gnome/XFCE/Fluxbox/your_preferred_WM_here paradigm?

Re:Pic (3, Funny)

Your Pal Dave (33229) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167480)

I dunno, all this talk of customization makes me think it might look more like this [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Pic (1)

xENoLocO (773565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167618)

That's not open source.

Clearly they copied source from windows.

does that mean.. (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167014)

The young German is the founder of the OScar project, whose goal is to develop and build a car according to open-source principles.

Does that mean it will crash less than other cars?

Re:does that mean.. (2, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167140)

It means that the feature you actually want, the one that's been available in the commercial equivalent for years, will be migrating from the developer's code base to the unstable version on sourceforge just as soon as he's finished with his divorce.

Re:does that mean.. (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167238)

"Does that mean it will crash less than other cars?"

If it has faster 0-60mph times, and handles better than other cars...and doesn't look like a lump (skinable?) like most cars coming out today (like that prius...ugh!)....

I'd be interested in it.

Re:does that mean.. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167622)

I'm pretty sure they have a different set of priorities than you do. The project will probably be forked to handle different needs.

Well, if the speed and tailgating is auto-limited. (1)

openright (968536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167394)

Crashing can be reduced by reducing the dangers.

The maximum speed is easy to set.

Next, you can limit or warn about following distance.

You could also detect a vehicle following you, and emit some warning brake pattern.

Erratic (swerving due to some distraction/impairment) driving behavior could be detected and warned (perhaps it could switch to safer limits too).

It would be nice if some limits were imposed on the whole auto industry. But companies (and their consumers, and their government) want to have cars that go 200 MPH, even if deaths increase as a result.

Beyond some limits and warnings, to achieve true safety, an entire automated traffic system would be needed.
(Open source of course).

Re:Well, if the speed and tailgating is auto-limit (2, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167654)

Crashing can be reduced by reducing the dangers. The maximum speed is easy to set. Next, you can limit or warn about following distance. You could also detect a vehicle following you, and emit some warning brake pattern. Erratic (swerving due to some distraction/impairment) driving behavior could be detected and warned (perhaps it could switch to safer limits too).

I see where you're going with this. Perhaps if we put some sort of sentience in charge of controlling the vehicle, we could accomplish all of those things; maybe an organic neural net, but those take about 9 months to grow, and I think it's illegal to sell them since they ratified the 13th amendment.

Re:Well, if the speed and tailgating is auto-limit (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167934)

You could design it to accept crashes and keep going instead of trying to avoid them. In fact, encourage the drivers to crash for the fun of it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:BumperCar.jpg [wikipedia.org]

Re:does that mean.. (1)

LordMaxxon (898539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168106)

Bad drivers will crash both software and hardware.

If your open source car breaks down... (3, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167016)

Auto mechanics will come out of nowhere to help fix your car and get you on your way. A representative from AAA will complain that open source mechanics don't do a great job as traditional (but expensive) mechanics.

Re:If your open source car breaks down... (4, Insightful)

edmicman (830206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167242)

Actually, depending on your variation, wouldn't it be...

"You will have to search out mechanics on your own, and in most cases if you find them they will laugh at you for being too stupid to use the car, and point you to libraries spread throughout the country. In each of those libraries there will be manuals that give small, different chunks that sort of relate to the problem you're having. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to find a mechanic who has seen your problem before, and actually gives you a straight answer and gets you back on the road. But good luck on the rest of the times." :-/

Re:If your open source car breaks down... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167380)

Until you learn to use "google." Seriously, two days ago I decided (out of the blue) to set up my laptop to dual-boot between windows and some version of open source OS. I used google and wikipedia to decide on the best course of action. I spent 10 minutes on google to find out that I could partition my hard drive rather easily without losing data (GParter). I then found a *very* detailed description of how to install fedora core 6. It worked perfectly, nearly to my surprise. There were, of course, problems. I found my mouse randomly moving and clicking. It often deleted text while I was typing... I did a google search and found that this was rather common on laptops - I had to turn off the touchpad if I was going to use a mouse. Unfortunately I had to edit a rather important file to do so... and I mis-spelled "option," causing my graphical interface to fail to load. I, being rather young and new to anything but windows, was lost, but upon restarting it reset to before my badly spelled changes. Spelling "option" properly worked fine and I was able to type without deleting text. In short - despite nearly zero preparation, no expert help, and on the spur of the moment I was able to successfully go totally open source with the aid of only google and plenty of places where people have detailed nearly every problem you could encounter.

Re:If your open source car breaks down... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167562)

Actually, in the old days, you could buy a book for your make of car to figure out what's wrong. These days you can't do that. My Dad spent two weeks and $800 replacing parts that he thought was the problem (and needed replacing anyway) until he took it to the shop. The mechanic turned the ignition on, a number popped up on the dashboard, and, according to the manufacturer manual, it was a $0.15 resistor that's burnt out on a part that cost $35. Go figure.

Re:If your open source car breaks down... (1)

f0dder (570496) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168192)

opensource_car_owner: help my car broke down
37337_hacker: lawl noob RTFM

Like Linux... (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167022)

...it will wind up smelling like pee. ;P A nod to the_mad_poster [slashdot.org] .

"mainly software??" (2, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167028)

Merz says that while building a car today "is mainly software, until a certain point anyway,"

Not a car I would ever drive... I prefer my cars with *no* software.

Re:"mainly software??" (2, Insightful)

Poppler (822173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167144)

Not a car I would ever drive... I prefer my cars with *no* software.
I'm with you, in that I drive older cars, mostly for this reason. I'm all for this "open source car" thing, though; at a certain point the future, virtually every car on the market will have a computer in it. Do we want to be able to service these things ourselves, or are we going to have to take them to a Certified Mechanic who needs an expensive proprietary interface to work on the car?

Re:"mainly software??" (4, Informative)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167278)

Not a car I would ever drive... I prefer my cars with *no* software.

I'm with you, in that I drive older cars, mostly for this reason. I'm all for this "open source car" thing, though; at a certain point the future, virtually every car on the market will have a computer in it. Do we want to be able to service these things ourselves, or are we going to have to take them to a Certified Mechanic who needs an expensive proprietary interface to work on the car?
First I guess it should be noted that you are taking all of this out of context. The quote in the article is referring to the fact that much of hardware design is done via mock-up in software packages, it is not insisting that running the car is mostly software.

Second: Older cars have the same problem. "What? They do not!" you say! Yes, yes they do. How much money does it cost for all the specialized tools needed in vehicle repair? Flare nut wrenches? No use other than brake jobs. Flywheel puller? Special presses?

You already need to use expensive, sometimes proprietary (Ford fuel line disconnect) tools to do the job, how is that different than needing to connect a car up to a computer interface?

BTW, you will find that those fancy computer interfaces can be had for under 200 bucks, which is less than many of your single-purpose tools needed for car work and supports a whole suite of diagnostic purposes.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

radl33t (900691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167580)

Okay caveman. Let us toss out all the improvements in power, efficiency, and emissions constrol on modern vehicles so the cavemen of the world can huff gas fumes and drink beer in their garages. Any car requires expensive proprietary interfaces in order to do real work. You might call this a "tool" in caveman jargon. Software doesn't prohibit you from doing any mechanical repair on your car. The worst thing I can imagine is paying $49 for a diagnostic. But since your a super car god, diagnostics are for sissies: so unplug your battery.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167598)

That depends on what you mean. Cars have had computers in them for a long time. I think Packard and Deusenberg had computers in the 30's. Regular passenger cars have had computers in them for twenty years now, any electronic fuel injection engine has a computer to control it.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167164)

Gee, I hate to break it to you but you most likely drive a car that developed mostly in software. What he said in no way mean that the car is run by software. It means that most of the design process is mostly software. You know, software mockups of a hardware solution to test it instead of making a prototype each time?

I can't believe you were trying to be sarcastic, unless you just aren't very good at that either...

Re:"mainly software??" (0)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167282)

Gee, I hate to break it to you but you most likely drive a car that developed mostly in software.

Well, I do now, but I'm saving up for a car that wasn't designed by software. You see, a car with no microchips of any kind is a car that any regular person can fix. As soon as there's any kind of chip in there, you can't fix it yourself.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167322)

Well, I do now, but I'm saving up for a car that wasn't designed by software. You see, a car with no microchips of any kind is a car that any regular person can fix. As soon as there's any kind of chip in there, you can't fix it yourself.
Gargh. Can you not see that there is a difference in the phrases, "Designed by software" and "Run by software" ???????

If I design a cool boomerang by simulating it first in some software package, throwing away several designs and settling on one that works the best does that mean that my boomerang (when I finally build the prototype) is controlled or run by some doggone microchips?

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167804)

Ever get the feeling you're trying to explain quantum mechanics to a goat? :-)

Just to add to what you're saying... every car on the market today has an onboard computer. Even kit-cars have onboard computers. They serve a few very useful purposes. One of the three in my car controls the transmission (tiptronic... best of both worlds. have the fun of a manual transmission, and the convenience of an automatic when you're feeling lazy), another has a temperature sensor and controls the fuel/air mixture, and the third handles all of the guages. Now... there's no reason that all of those functions can't be handled by a mechanical or analogue mechanism. Hell... there were even automatic transmissions available on the market before the invention of the transistor, so even that isn't something that *requires* a computer.

*BUT*... analogue/mechanical systems to do that kind of stuff are, well, analogue or mechanical. They're just as prone to breakage as digital/computerized systems, and in many ways are less reliable than their modern counterparts. They're also a lot more expensive and complicated to implement. There's a *reason* that you can't get a car these days that doesn't have at least one onboard computer. And the notion that the "average joe" can't fix a car once there's a microchip in it? Complete and utter bullshit. Unadulterated bovine scatology. I've been fixing cars my entire life, and I have never owned a car that didn't have an onboard computer. I've replaced onboard computers several times... when I was fixing a 1990 Subaru XT-6, for example, I went through 3 computers before I fixed the problem with the suspension. And yes, I've even reprogrammed the onboard computers. It's not rocket surgery. It's actually pretty fucking easy to replace the computer in your car, and they're no more expensive than most of the other parts in your car. If you wouldn't balk at the thought of pulling the engine to get a head rebored, then there's absolutely no reason you should find replacing the computer difficult: the computer is cheaper than getting the head rebored (to say nothing of buying a new engine as the alternative), and usually you only have to pull the dashboard or one of the front seats to get at it, which is significantly easier. It's a one-person job that can be done in less than an hour.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167838)

Ever get the feeling you're trying to explain quantum mechanics to a goat? :-)
Yes. Thank you :)

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168002)

>Ever get the feeling you're trying to explain quantum mechanics to a goat?

Oooh! Ooooh! Thanks! My new sig!

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167350)

Well, I do now, but I'm saving up for a car that wasn't designed by software. You see, a car with no microchips of any kind is a car that any regular person can fix.


A car can be "designed by software" and have no microchips (or designed by hand, and have several microchips). The two concepts are completely orthogonal.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167384)

Well, I do now, but I'm saving up for a car that wasn't designed by software. You see, a car with no microchips of any kind is a car that any regular person can fix. As soon as there's any kind of chip in there, you can't fix it yourself.
Sweet mother of Mary riding on a pony. Give this person a cookie. They understand.

Thank you.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167590)

Not completely. They *usually* go hand-in-hand. Human beings really can only fix cars that were designed and manufactured pre-computer.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167722)

Human beings really can only fix cars that were designed and manufactured pre-computer.
No. There are parts, both mechanical and electronic that need to be replaced from time to time. Sure you can get your drums turned and put them back on or rebuild your carb. But there are plenty of mechanical parts on your car that you simply replace with new ones when they wear out. That is the same with one of the computer sensors or whatnot. If they are faulty, you put a new one in.

Perhaps you can't fix newer cars, but I have very little trouble with it.

Re:"mainly software??" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167564)

> Well, I do now, but I'm saving up for a car that wasn't designed by software.

Please be clear what you mean here. A car "with no microchips" can still be a car that was designed by people who used software, e.g. CAD tools.

> You see, a car with no microchips of any kind is a car that any regular person can fix.

Not every "regular person" has the mechanical aptitude to fix a car either. Regular people don't hone their own cylinders, replace piston rings, change their clutch plates, adjust their valves, machine their own parts, or what-have-you. Nor do regular people read car diagnostics, replace the FI computer, or replace the various sensors expected by the fuel computer. What matters is the skill and tools available. If you have the skill and the tools you certainly could fix a car yourself, computerized or not. Hell, there are open-source fuel injection computers (schematics, pcb layout, and software) out there. People do do it.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167760)

"As soon as there's any kind of chip in there, you can't fix it yourself."
Okay why not?
If the chip fails you could get a new one and replace it.

Very few people can make every part of a car from the raw materials. Unless you have a full machine shop and foundry in your back yard you will always have to buy parts. So how is a chip any different.
I suggest you do a Google on MegaSquirt. It is a DIY fuel injection system that you can build yourself or buy as a kit.

Chips are not magic. They are just parts like anything else.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168154)

You see, a car with no microchips of any kind is a car that any regular person can fix.

actually, NO! I work on large Diesiel trucks, when you have a loss of power on your purly mechanical car, most live with it spewing extra gas, and exhaust smoke, lose 10% of economy, oh well old cars do that... Or you get a compression gauge, you check one cylinder at a time, you add a gauge check fuel pressure, add a gauge check radiator pressure... you add a gauge, check head temperatures, exhaust temperature, radiator temperatures, timing light...

So most would just drive until it blows up, wasting resources. now add a computer, it can display/diagnois all these with a single handheld pluged into a port. More often than not the system tells you your low on power, before you know it.

With the systems we put on our vehicles, the operator hits a snapshot button when they vehicle does something goofy, that is sent by email via satalite to our dealer they get a call from the dealer hey looks like you got a clogged injector on cylinder #5, you want someone sent?

    So adding a computer to monitor is making it much easier than having to try and add a gauge, and hope to get lucky seeing the problem. Then again diagnoising the computer is VERY difficult if it fails.

now when car manufactures catch on to the internet, and you take a USB drive to your pc, so that any of your buddies, dealers, etc can look at your temps... I think that takes a competitor that does this, so more power to a opensource engine controller, I'll be swapping mine.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

Brother Dysk (939885) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167348)

"Gee, I hate to break it to you but..." You blatantly don't - you revel in it.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167424)

"Gee, I hate to break it to you but..." You blatantly don't - you revel in it.
Good boy, here is your cookie. I'll also give you a free link to the definition of sarcasm [reference.com] . And perhaps a bonus link to irony [reference.com] .

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

The Real Toad King (981874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167168)

Really? You enjoy cars with no dashboard/power steering/anti-lock brakes/automatic transmission/fuel gage/speedometer/etc?

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167230)

Really? You enjoy cars with no dashboard

No computer required.

Really? You enjoy cars with no... power steering

Yes. But, no computer required.

Really? You enjoy cars with no... anti-lock brakes

Yes.

Really? You enjoy cars with no... automatic transmission

Do you really enjoy cars with automatic transmissions?? Ugh.

Really? You enjoy cars with no... fuel gage

No computer required.

Really? You enjoy cars with no... speedometer

No computer required.

Whew, that was a complicated post.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

7macaw (933316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167338)

What about the ECU? Of course that's not the same as let the software _drive_ for you, but I doubt you really want to manually calibrate ignition angles.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167432)

Cars Worked Great for decades with points style ignitions. No ECU required.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_breaker [wikipedia.org]

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

7macaw (933316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167698)

Sure. And before those cars, I've heard, horses were sufficient :P

They definetly worked without an ECU, but power/weight, as well as milage were incomparable to modern engines.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167302)

"Really? You enjoy cars with no dashboard/power steering/anti-lock brakes/automatic transmission/fuel gage/speedometer/etc?"

I dislike anti-lock brakes...I feel in less control...good old manual disk brakes on each wheel thank you!. I have never owned, nor ever want to own an automatic transmission car. I go only for sports cars tho....I've only owned one car with more than 2 seats in my life, and that was my '86 930 (R.I.P. in Katrina).

I don't see that you need a computer for fuel gages, speedometers, tach......all work perfectly well with cables the old fashioned mechanical way.

Now, I'll grant you, computers DO help things on cars, but, I prefer them to be minimal in usage. It is MUCH easier to track down and fix a mechanical problem than trying to trouble shoot something computerized or drive by wire. Especially if you like to do some work on your own as a "shade tree mechanic".

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

wolfgang_spangler (40539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167486)

Now, I'll grant you, computers DO help things on cars, but, I prefer them to be minimal in usage. It is MUCH easier to track down and fix a mechanical problem than trying to trouble shoot something computerized or drive by wire. Especially if you like to do some work on your own as a "shade tree mechanic".
That is only true if you refuse to keep learning. Computers and on board diagnostics help a great deal in troubleshooting and repair if you take the time to learn how they work.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168148)

You enjoy cars with no dashboard/power steering/anti-lock brakes/automatic transmission/fuel gage/speedometer/etc?

Speedometers, fuel gages etc are mechanical, power steering and anti-lock breaks are unnecessary, and as for automatic transmission, I am neither old, disabled or American so have no use for it.

Re:"mainly software??" (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167852)

>>Merz says that while building a car today "is mainly software, until a certain point anyway,"

>Not a car I would ever drive... I prefer my cars with *no* software.


I wouldn't go that far, I just prefer a car with no windows.

What isn't open about cars? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167032)

AFAIK, about the only thing that isn't 'open' about cars is their engine management software & other associated softwares.

What else really is there to protect?

Everything else is trivially reverse engineered. Each of the major MFGs has engineering teams that buy new cars & strip them down to the bare chassis & then do an inventory to figure out how much their competitors are spending.

Software is really the only black box in a car.

Re:What isn't open about cars? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167098)

Software is really the only black box in a car.

Yeah, and software isn't even necessary. If anything, I'd be interested in working on (and driving) a car with no software at all.

Re:What isn't open about cars? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167244)

AFAIK, about the only thing that isn't 'open' about cars is their engine management software & other associated softwares. What else really is there to protect? Everything else is trivially reverse engineered.
"Trivially" does not mean "legally". Auto manufacturers use IP laws to control technology, too, though patent is more important, relative to copyright, than is the case in the software industry.

Re:What isn't open about cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167522)

People take out patents every year on things that MIGHT look like something a car company might use, so that they can then sue the car company for breech of patent. Imagine the lawsuits an open car would have to withstand, given the lawsuits an opensource software OS had to endure, even thought it had NO evidence against it!

Nonetheless, I like the idea.

Re:What isn't open about cars? (1)

hauntingthunder (985246) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167592)

There have been loads of kit cars for decades. Rangeing from cheap and chaerfuul to 90% plus repicas of claasics like a GT40 or a 427 cobra.

Ok buying a full race engine ain't going to be cheap nor will insurance.

Simpsons did it (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167046)

I still want to buy "The Homer" from Powell Motors. [wikipedia.org]

So, for once... (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167058)

The young German is the founder of the OScar project, whose goal is to develop and build a car according to open-source principles.

Finally, all those car analogies people make on computer forums might actually be relevant..

Re:So, for once... (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167288)

Does that mean that if you leave your OScars door open, everyone is free to drive it?

Re:So, for once... (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167320)

Does that mean that if you leave your OScars door open, everyone is free to drive it?

No, that's City CarShare.

Although, I could see ZipCar or City CarShare being interested in the Open Source Car.

Not really "open source" just "open collaboration" (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167066)

From reading TFA, it just sounds like he wants help designing the car for free...

Main problem will be laws. (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167104)

Open-source principles will be good for innovation.

But there will be a BIG problem with laws - especially mandated safety and emissions testing.

That's designed on the assumption that large numbers of essentially identical cars are produced by well-funded manufacturers, so the cost of a lot of crash and emission-control testing and design work can be spread out over many units and become affordable.

Even if you are building using zero-emission or well-tested stock power plants, good luck on getting the safety-testing requirements relaxed. A poorly-designed car endangers, not just those in it, but those in vehicles around it.

With cars the "blue screen of death" is literal.

Re:Main problem will be laws. (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167364)

"That's designed on the assumption that large numbers of essentially identical cars are produced by well-funded manufacturers, so the cost of a lot of crash and emission-control testing and design work can be spread out over many units and become affordable. Even if you are building using zero-emission or well-tested stock power plants, good luck on getting the safety-testing requirements relaxed. A poorly-designed car endangers, not just those in it, but those in vehicles around it. "

Could you get around that if you made it a 'kit car'? I've wondered about that...was looking into the Cobra replica kit cars...and wondering if they got around the emissions and other regulations on those....'cause some of the places will assemble them for you for a fee.

I've also wondered about refurbed antique cars. How much of the rebuild has to be original, in order to by pass the new regulations and have it grandfathered in..I mean, you can pretty much build a late 60's Z28 Camero...completely from new parts out there...frame and all. If you built a car from all replica parts...would it be a 2006 or what?

So when it crashes (1)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167110)

do we call it a brick wall of death?

It probably will be boring and stable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167114)

It will have good fuel economy and run at 90 hp, take 3 weeks to learn how to drive, will require you to manually light the engine with a match before you start and it will also come in 65341 colors. It will run on gas, diesel, e85 and depending on owner, angst and arrogance.

An open source car? (2, Interesting)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167120)

It's a cool idea, but there's a few practical problems. Firstly, open source works for software because an intelligent person can pick up a few books and learn how to write code. Designing a car has a higher barrier to entry. Secondly, lacking the ability to run complex simulations on a car design, much less to produce prototypes for testing, will put an open source car at a disadvantage. Finally, who would mass-manufacture such a vehicle? I'm not saying it's impossible but there are many obstacles to overcome.

Re:An open source car? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167212)

It's a cool idea, but there's a few practical problems. Firstly, open source works for software because an intelligent person can pick up a few books and learn how to write code. Designing a car has a higher barrier to entry.


I'm not sure that's really an apples-to-apples comparison. Any (even assuming a decent general education, but no specialty in the field) person off the street is unlikely to pick up a few books and people capable of putting together, say, an enterprise-ready RDBMS from scratch on their own, any more than they are going to be able to do the same and be able to put together a complete, production-ready quality automobile design.

OTOH, its probably not all that hard for lots of reasonably educated, interested people to pick up a book and have insight useful for putting together designs for certain components for either of those projects, while a smaller group of specialists with greater expertise and who also have commitment open principles focus on the overall architecture and more technically-involved components.

Patent issues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167122)

What does it mean to be an open source car? Full details of the manufacturing and metal alloy percent content of the engines and suspension system? In some sense cars are already open source, you can open them up and see how they work and make modifications (unfortunately even add gold spinners and neon) without being hauled off for violating the DMCA.

The question I'm asking is, can you make a car with dynamic stability and traction control features that isn't going to violate someone's patent?

This is interesting (1)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167138)

I like the ideas in the software:

The latter module is key, because the OScar project is also meant to be an exploration of alternative designs for individual and collective mobility. While he believes in the right to mobility for everyone, Merz explains, "this doesn't need to translate into individual car ownership". For instance, an efficient system for distributing information about who needs a car when to go where could enable more car sharing. Technology could also be used to recommend optimal routes, etc. The OScar will be from the onset a "connected" car.

This might make car-pooling possible, even in Atlanta.

Auto Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167146)

I like the idea. Maybe the car's designer(s) will design everything under the hood with quick easy maintenance in mind. And instead of idiot lights there could be computer readouts on an LCD panel.

LOL LOONIX CARZ (0, Troll)

SydBarrett (65592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167158)

It's gonna be a ugly square box with 3 wheels. When you take it to get it fixed, the mechanic just calls you a noob and tells you to compile your own wrench. But it really doesn't matter since it's just going to get forked into a moped in about a year anyway.

Re:LOL LOONIX CARZ (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167266)

More like an ugly round box [theoscarproject.org] . It's not that bad but it's too round & futuristic for me. Like the new beetle on steroids.
The article doesn't give me much confidence, it sounds like a guy who expects to design a car without much knowledge about the subject. Plus, open source CAD is a pain in the ass (I've tried it).

Re:LOL LOONIX CARZ (1)

SydBarrett (65592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167314)

http://www.theoscarproject.org/images/home_ani.gif [theoscarproject.org]

Good Lord. I'm guessing that a blue wall forms behind it that other cars would crash into. And you can turn in perfect 90 degree angles as well.

Open source firearms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167206)

There is something of an open source firearms movement. Firearms fulfill a basic human need, namely that of self-defense. They're also not difficult to make from scratch. Links: Instructions for a primitive home-made subgun: http://www.thehomegunsmith.com/ [thehomegunsmith.com] . And here's a whole forum of people who are actually having fun building and shooting their own guns: http://www.homegunsmith.com/ [homegunsmith.com] . Fortunately it's legal in most of the US to build an "ordinary" firearm for personal use without any paperwork.

" Open Source Car on the Horizon" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167220)

My first advice is this. Reconsider basing the design on the Plymouth Horizon ;)

Standards (4, Insightful)

inKubus (199753) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167260)

I think the most important part of Open Source development of ANYTHING is standards. You need to have a standards body. The problem with the auto industry today is there are no real standards. Take for example custom wheels--a simple, non-moving piece of metal that basically holds the tire. It's main purpose is cosmetic after the basic functionality that all wheels share (round, has bolt holes in the middle, etc.). You'd think it would be simple to get a different wheel for your car, but if you ever try you'll find hundreds of different widths, bolt-patterns, diameters, etc.

This Open Source car would only be better if there were standards employed in these particular sections. Or have any connections be customizeable on both sides of the connection. So, if someone invents a better wheel pattern, it's easy to change the disc brake assembly to to fit it (dependency).

The problem is that just having the design isn't going to get you very far because of the specialized components involved. A car is very expensive to build but at million plus quantities it's very cheap. But try to one-off one gear for a transmission sometime (it'll be THOUSANDS to get the precision in a $900 off-the-shelf manual transmission like Mazda makes for Ford).

Instead, from the design stage, standardize everything. A standard ring or star topology for communications and power bussing throughout the car. Then each powered device has a microcontroller that turns it off or on. Then the microcontroller can report back it's status to a central computer. Most of the electricals are easily standardized. Where you run into problems is precision machined steel parts of an engine and transmission. Replacing also those with electrics is the way to go. Use electric motors, magnetic suspension, etc. Modular body panels can have their own microcontrollers also, so the car can reconfigure itself based on what you have mounted. You have the rear door in place, the rear door up/down button appears on the interface. The top is off, no sense showing the moonroof control. Etc etc.

RFC's and the like are what's really made stuff like linux possible. It's not just having the source but having the standards that really make everything easy to work with, and make sure that many different programmers can all work on different sections of the project without worrying about if their module can talk with the others.

Re:Standards (1)

mutterc (828335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167596)

Where you run into problems is precision machined steel parts of an engine and transmission. Replacing also those with electrics is the way to go.

That's one of the things I like about the Prius. The Prius transmission [ecrostech.com] is rather simpler than the typical tranny, and, because of the two motors and one engine involved, doesn't need a clutch (the gear connected to the wheels can be held still even when the engine is spinning, by counter-spinning the motors).

Adds New Meaning to the Phrase: (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167284)

"A Fork In The Road"

But... (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167292)

...but does it run Linux?

Sorry, this joke has been beaten to death. Couldn't help it.
*runs away*

GCC (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167324)

Now, what GCC version do I need to compile it?

OS jokes - a welcome change of pace (1)

no_pets (881013) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167354)

What a great thread of comments here. It's nice to see that /.ers can actually joke and make fun of OS practices even if they are directed at something besides software.

BTW did Hell freeze over?!?

Reminds me of a joke ... (1)

MrFlibbs (945469) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167362)

A mechanical engineer, a systems analyst, and a software engineer had just completed their open source car. During the first test drive, the brakes give out while heading down a steep mountain grade. After a few harrowing minutes of high speed, tire-squealing, om-my-god-we're-going-to-die excitement, they run the car off the road and come to a safe stop.

The mechanical engineer says, "There must be a leak in the hydraulic system, and that caused the brakes to fail."

"Not so fast," said the systems analyst. "There could be many other causes. We need to do a thorough analysis before coming to any conclusions."

The software engineer said, "Why don't we drive back to the top of the hill and try it again?"

free as in beer? (1)

drfrog (145882) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167370)

hey if beer can be open sourced
http://www.voresoel.dk/ [voresoel.dk]
i dont see why cars cant be

this is stupid (1)

tacokill (531275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167372)

This is retarded, IMHO. While open source is good for a lot of things, I don't think this is one of them.

Are car part designs really that incumbered by patents or IP issues? So much so that someone CAN'T design their own without running afoul of the law?

After all, don't forget that Mopar [trademotion.com] (and countless others) have been knocking off manufacturer's parts for years. And they are still around.

While it's nice that the designs would be "open", I think practically speaking, they already are.

Re:this is stupid (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167410)

Are car part designs really that incumbered by patents or IP issues?
I dunno exactly how significant it is in practice, but just as an illustration, here's the Hitachi's page listing their automotive patents [hitachi.us] .

Re:this is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167884)

Eh. Mopar [wikipedia.org] is part of D-C .. why shouldn't they produce spare parts for their parent company?

Been there, done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167412)

It's called a junkyard. But that's not quite truely open, you have to pay for them. If you're quick, and have friends who'll look out for cops, you can go open source almost anywhere you can find a car with no one looking. But hey, where else you gonna get a transmission for free?

GM used to be the big standardizer; some years, you could put Buick and Oldsmobile body parts on your Cadillac and vice versa, of course the trim looked a little funny, kind of like the interfaces on different open source applications. Engines were more interchangeable, there were some engines (perhaps still, I haven't followed closely in the last decade), that were identical in displacement, number of cylinders, horsepower, and bolt holes for mounts, carburetors, and other attachments. And yes, the story about the happy owner of the brand new Cadillac looking under the hood, and discovering, to his horror! an engine with "Oldsmobile" stamped on it is true. The only difference between the Olds and Caddy engines was the stamping. That was true of most of the parts at that time.

You Missed the Johnnny Cash song (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167808)

But hey, where else you gonna get a transmission for free?

The Factory, of course!

ONE PIECE AT A TIME

Well I left Kentucky back in 49.

And I went to Detroit workin on an assembly line The first year they had me puttin wheels on Caddillacs
Every day I'd watch them beauties roll by and sometimes id hang my head and cry
Cause i always wanted me one that was long and black.

One day I devised myself a plan that should be the envy of most any man Id sneak it out of there in a lunch box in my hand
Now, gettin caught meant gettin fired But I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired
And I'd have me a car worth at least a hundered grand

(CHORUS)
I'd get it one piece at a time And it wouldnt cost me a dime
You'll know it's me whe I come throught your town I'm gonna ride around in style
I'm gonna drive everybody wild Cause I'll have the only one ther is around

So the very next day when I punched in With my big lunch box and with help from my friends
I left that day with a lunch box full of gears I've never considered myself a thief
But GM wouldn't miss just one little piece Especially if I strung it out over several years
The first day I got me a fuel pump And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
Then i got me a transmission and all the chrome

The little things I could get in my big lunch box Like nuts and bolts and all 4 shocks
But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddies mobile home

Now, up to now, my plan went all right Till we tried to put it all together one night
And thats when we noticed that somethin was definitely wrong The transmission was a 53
And the motor turned out to be a 73 And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone
So we drilled it out so that it would fit And with a little bit of help from an adapter kit
We had that engine runnin just like a song

Now the headlights they was another sight We had 2 on the left and one on the right
But when we pulled out the switch all three of em come on

The back end looked kinda funny too But we put it together and when we got through
Well thats when we noticed that we only had one tail fin About that time my wife walked out
And I could see in her eyes that she had her doubts
But she opened the door and said "Honey, take me for a spin."

So we drove up town just to get the tags And I headed right on down main drag
And I could hear everybody laughing for blocks around But up there at the court house they didn't laugh
Cause to type it up it took the whole staff And when they got through the title weighed 60 pounds

(CHORUS)

Uh,yeah,Red-rider,this is the Cottonmouth in the sycho-billy-Cadillac,come on
This is the Cottonmouth and negatory on the cost on this machine here Red-rider
You might say I right up to the factory and picked it up, it was chaper that way
What model is it?
It's a 49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56,57,58,59 automobile
It's a 60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67,68,69,70 automobile

Practical Problem of Open Source Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167508)

What about the cost associated with all the misc software packages required for building a car? For software one can just go and get a c or java or assembly complier a few books from the library and start cranking out software. With the design of a car requiring so many different analysis packages (like FEMLAB or ANSYS or MATLAB), are there open-source solutions for all the design components?

They've tackled the wrong problem (3, Informative)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 7 years ago | (#17167650)

As much as I like the idea, they've tacked the wrong problem. It's not the car that needs designing, its the manufacturing systems that need designing. Until they can manufacture 1,000,000 of their cars for under $20,000 ea (if they want middle-class buyers in developed nations), or 10,000,000 for under $10,000 ea (if they want worldwide volume), or 100,000,000 for under $5,000 ea (if they want to pre-empt the environmental nightmare of 1 billion new cars in China & India), they've done nothing to address the problem of transportation's contribution to global environmental problems. Form may follow function, but manufacturing defines what form you can make and sell.

As cool as their renderings and open-source specs are, they do nothing to address the real problem. And before someone claims that this is only a concept and that manufacturing can come later, they need to know that 80%-90% of the cost of something is baked in during the design phase (the figure comes from companies such as Volkswagen and Lucent). If manufacturing is an afterthought, there's no hope of getting the costs down because it's too late. Maybe a few stock-option millionaire geeks will be able to spring for the vehicle, but it will never hit a price point that sells the volume that makes a difference.

I hope they switch the focus of the effort to make a breakthrough in manufacturing systems. That would be really cool!

Common Designs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17167850)

Well, not really a standard, per se, but I know some old Fiat designs have been (and probably still are) bought, modified, and manufactured in many non-Western countries that do produce their own vehicles. Don't know if old VW designs are used in similar manner, though I wouldn't be surprised. They are pretty good designs, too - small engine ( 1 Liter displacement), simple designs to keep the cost down, fuel-efficient, and easy to fix (assuming parts are available).

Interesting, but not new (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168108)

Depends on now you define 'open source car', of course. Kit cars in various forms have been on the market for years. Parts are supplied either by the kit manufacturer or the buyer has to get them from a donor car. There's an instruction manual, but the owner is free to modify the car (and can do so far more easily than with a conventional car). Some countries (the UK for one) have special regulations that allow these cars on the road after a thorough inspection but without having to pass destructive tests. It's not quite design-by-committee, but I'd call it an open source approach.
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