For more then a decade there have been jokes that compared cars with computers or to be more specific software. 2013 – I think it is time to recap this because software has evolved, cars – in my opinion – obviously not. It is a well known fact that adding complexity leads to more problems within a system. What happened to cars? Today’s cars are full of electronic assistance systems and none required gadgets like electronically adjustable mirrors and electronically controlled locks and electronic ignition.

Besides the fact that you can today hack the electronic locks with ease they’re horrible expensive to replace – 300 euro for a broken door lock. What the..!? While speaking about security…

You can access the [1] CAN bus from an electronically controlled side-mirror and gain access to the complete electronic infrastructure system of the car.
Remote-locks are easy to hack, even for non computer guys. Who ever is capable of searching the internet and reading and is not a retard can do this.

So to summarize this, modern cars:

  • Require special tools for maintenance and building
  • Are hard to maintain
  • Are expensive to repair because they are hard to maintain
  • Are a pile of possible failure due to the amount of (unnecessary) electronic gadgets
  • Have parts and components that aren’t exchangeable with other cars, very often not even within the same series and manufacturer
  • Electronic locks and ignition systems are a huge security issue
  • Don’t have fallbacks (i.e. the electronic mirrors, locks or ignition breaks you can not still use them mechanically)

How a car could be build based on best practice and principles of modern software architecture

  • All screws, bolts and whatever else is needed in the car must be assemble with standard tools that are international available
  • The engine hold must be constructed in a way that different engines can be mounted inside so that the engine can be simply replaced by another more powerful or new engine
  • All parts of the whole care must be easy to access and maintain
  • Form follows function but should be aerodynamic – form follows function

Now if all of that could be done in a way all the parts, at least the frame of the card, would become manufacturable by using modern 3D printers, that might revolutionize how cars could be build, where they could be build and also result in lower prices. Just imagine to be able to drop a few containers containing the 3D printers somewhere , everywhere in the world and to be able to 3D print most parts needed for a car that can than be manufactured by any average mechanic! In fact [2] the US Army has already started doing this.

With the evolution of industrial level 3D printing this might become a cheap way to build cars in developing countries for a comparatively cheap price for the people living there. But also in modern world countries these cars might become a good opportunity for people who don’t care about having a nice car to compensate something or simply don’t have the money and can’t afford a “better” car. Better in terms of failure probability and maintenance cost is anyway a highly doubtable point even for expensive cars. So yes, I think a maintainable “open source” car would be even better than expensive high end cars that you can’t fix without special knowledge and tools.

Can this become a reality? Well, I hope so, I would buy it.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus
[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20269645