BMW crowd-sourcing the future of urban driving technology
By C.C. Weiss
September 26, 2012
One of the most established luxury auto marques is teaming up with one of the market's latest, buzziest firms to visualize the future of design and technology. BMW is working with crowd-source guru Local Motors in a new contest designed to gain a broader perspective on the future of sustainable urban mobility.
BMW and Local Motors couldn't have more contrasting images. It's like the rich, weathered executive counting his money versus the hungry, brainy tech guru with his mind around an idea that could change the entire industry – or possibly leave him bankrupt. And perhaps it's these contrasting backgrounds that make BMW and Local Motors such compelling partners.
For those that aren't familiar, Local Motors is a small Phoenix, Arizona-based automotive firm that uses crowd sourcing for brainstorming, designing, refining and developing vehicle ideas. They work with an Internet community of more than 20,000 designers, engineers, auto enthusiasts and other passionate minds toward developing unique, customer-centric offerings. As evidenced by their first car the Rally Fighter, this creative process results in something very different than what the good old boys at traditional automakers push to dealerships.
It seems to be the different approach and result that BMW is interested in. BMW already prides itself on staying near the cutting edge of new technology, as evidenced by some of its latest vehicles and equipment designs, and it already has some interesting technological concepts of its own, so perhaps it decided it time to look outside its corporate walls for new ideas.
The "Urban Driving Experience Challenge" tasks Local Motors' design community, called The Forge, with brainstorming function and feature ideas for future urban vehicles. Specifically, BMW is looking to the year 2025 as a basis for the contest.
"Increasing urbanization, changing infrastructures and environmental pollution call for mobility solutions that strike a balance between global requirements and individual needs," BMW explains in its announcement. "This is nowhere more apparent than in the most densely populated and fastest growing urban centers around the world. The BMW Group has chosen to work with the open-source community at Local Motors to offer consumers the opportunity to participate in this endeavor."
The contest will come in two phases. The first kicked off on September 25 and will run until October 16. BMW plans to award more than US$30,000 to challenge winners, and some top winners will also have the chance to win a trip to Germany to meet with BMW executives.
While most ideas that come out of the contest probably won't get very far, Dr Christoph Grote, Managing Director BMW Group Research and Technology, says: “The results will undoubtedly be very valuable for BMW, and we eagerly anticipate the extent to which we can channel the expertise we acquire into our series-production processes.”
While the video below is mostly BMW tooting its own horn for past accomplishments, it does illustrate the types of past technological innovations BMW had in mind when developing the contest.