Recently, I attended the first IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona. One of the most intriguing, and surprising, presentations was from Corey Clothier, product manager, advanced vehicle technologies at Local Motors.
Local Motors is on the way to disrupt the traditional car manufacturing process by global co-creation and local micro manufacturing. Instead of spending millions of dollars and several years designing a new vehicle, they can do it much faster and at a fraction of the cost.
"We make cool cars. We make them five times faster than the average car business. And we make them 100 times less capital-intensively," explained Local Motors CEO and co-founder, Jay Rogers. Clothier explained that they can take a design concept and build an entire car in about four months.
One of the examples featured on his presentation was the "world's first co-created military vehicle," developed jointly with the U.S. Department of Defense Agency (DARPA). According to Clothier, who worked for the Department of Defense (DoD) during the project before joining Local Motors, the DoD put out a challenge.
It will typically take them about 10 years and 50 million dollars to create a new vehicle. The challenge was to build a new, innovated vehicle much faster and cheaper. They wanted someone to create a new car for the DOD in less than two years with a budget of three to five million dollars. Jay Rogers, the founder of Local Motors, created the car for less than half million dollars in less than five months.
Local Motors builds their vehicles using micro-factories, which are about 40,000 sq. ft. (3,750 mm) with about 100 employees and located near urban centers. That reduces waste, up to 97% of distribution costs and speeds delivery.
The company is setting up those micro-factories around the world, with a goal of having 100 sites in four years. The next ones are going to be in Nashville, TN, and Las Vegas this year. After that they are planning new facilities in Florida, Detroit, Atlanta, Berlin, London, and South Korea.
Local Motors believes the future is on car sharing, especially in cities. People who occasionally need to use a car for a couple of hours could just hop into a free-floating electric vehicle, pay by the minute, and drop it anywhere in the service area. Many of those programs are already working in several cities, such as the ones by Car2Go and DriveNow.
They are also looking at self-driving vehicles, which they see as the future of public transportation and urban delivery. Recently they presented the "Berlino," a concept microbus for the Berlin 2030 urban mobility challenge. The Berlino, which will begin testing next year, is a fully connected electric vehicle that can be used for different purposes, including logistics, local shuttles and other urban transportation needs. Local Motors says they can build and deliver the Berlino in less than two years, but it requires the IoT infrastructure to be present in a city, including vehicle to vehicle and infrastructure communications, for the vehicle to operate.
Meanwhile self-driving vehicles need to be restricted to enclosed facilities such as large warehouses, factories, or airports.
Local Motors uses IBM Watson, leveraging the power of cloud computing and simulation, to develop new vehicles. They are continuously analyzing data on performance, environment impact, suppliers, power usage, maintenance, and quality to improve their design, manufacturing efficiency and logistics. Their aim is to make self-designed and 3D printed cars affordable and quick to market.
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