Cars have become nothing more than computers with some mechanical pieces that, frankly, have not fundamentally changed since Ford’s Model T. The action is all in the electronics.
So it’s not surprising at all that an automobile company like BMW would want to embrace open source IP. Let’s face it, it’s totally in line with how aficionados have always viewed their relationship with their vehicles – 4 wheel or 2 wheel – i.e. open for tweaking, tuning and modding – in short, innovating. This website provides a good example of the options.
What BMW is doing is especially exciting because the auto industry is at a critical inflection point. Auto manufacturers, as well as just about every other old school manufacturing based industry, need to find a new growth vector. It can’t be just a tweak of the existing model. Big thinkers like, Umair Haque (blogs here and here), John Seely Brown and John Hagel (good blog here) have been saying this for years and I completely agree. There needs to be a genetic change, a core transformation. Open source is not the answer obviously. But it does point the way towards a way of innovating that I deeply believe is the way the most important 21st century inventions will be realized.
BMW seems to have grasped this, at least insofar as their openness to taking big perceived risks. Good for them. We applaud this type of thinking. And dear Dr. Reithofer (BMW CEO), if you’d like some assistance on the open source front we’d be happy to help out!