Friday, September 3, 2010

40 of 52 - And what about Open car rental?

It's certainly big, but where is the engine?

Imagine a world where the sole inventor of cars are the only one producing them, and they are making them for rent only. Part II (Part I here).

A few years ago, Linden Cars decided to publish the blueprints for the dashboards in their cars. At the time, they felt that innovation was needed because frankly, even if their cars was OK, the dashboard was dull blue with some rather old-fashioned rounded buttons. True enough, before long, several people was making their own dashboards and contributing improvements to the official one.

Although mostly beneficial, it's a bit risky retrofitting your car with a new dashboard. Not long ago, the makers of a very clever green-colored dashboard decided to have some fun. They incorporated an auto pilot that started the car while the person renting it was sleeping, running it over to a rival car designers house to let i stand in the courtyard, flashing the lights and honking the horn. At times, the poor guy could not get out of his own house because of all the cars flooding it. As a result, Linden Cars have discourage users from using that particular dashboard.

While allowing people to use third-party dashboards, the car maker has also tried to make a new dashboard by themselves. Hiring a bicycle designer called "Strange Spaceship", they made Dashboard 2.0 with a non-transparent head-up display that hides the complexity of the roads from the driver, giving her instead lots of tabs with illogical symbol that lists her phone directory and the content of the trunk. Needless to say, the controversial design has lead to a number of accidents, and most new renters of linden cars now retrofit their vehicles with an independent dashboard.

But back to the cars. Some clever people also noted that when they had the blueprint for the dashboard, they could use that information to figure out how the rest of the car was working. Being a bit tone-deaf they choose a manufacturing method called C#, set up a project and a few years later the alpha version of the blueprints was ready. OpenCar was born.

You too can put together an OpenCar in the basement, but it's really hard to keep it running. So most people choose to rent one. Several independent but small outlets have blossomed, promising big car experiences for small money.

Most OpenCars sports an enormous trunk of 4500 liters, and you can have them for as little as US$10 a month. On the other hand, they don't come with an engine. Being quite a modern concept, they draw their power from a shared engine in the sky. Trouble is, if you pack your car with 4 cubic metres of family luggage, and fills it up with kids and a husband, you might not get enough power to make the car move at all. This has led to people renting up to 16 cars at once to ensure they have the sole use of one cloud engine.

Another challenge with renting an OpenCar is that the blueprints are not finished yet. This means that you might start your car in the morning, discovering that the pedals have been replaced by a flight stick overnight, or that the trunk is suddenly in the front of the car in stead of the back, but a lot of people find this just fun.

No-one knows when the OpenCar concept will be more stable, or how long Linden Cars can keep ahead of development. Also, some people are thinking of abandoning cars, finding them rather old-fashioned. An upstart maker of flying saucers have been given lot of attention lately, together with a company that wants us to sail instead of drive. Needless to say, life on the move has never been more fun!

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