How Local Motors won the DARPA contest

A few weeks ago I published an article entitled “DS clarifies DARPA crowdsource win.” A few things, in my mind needed clarification. Dassault Systemes PR rep, Jessica Harrison from fama PR, arranged for me to speak with Alex Fiechter, Local Motors Engineer. I was curious, among other things, about how crowd-sourcing was used for the design and whether it was useful. I also wondered how they handled input from 12,000 community users and what was the process they used. Finally I wanted to find our more about Local Motors.

Here is how the process worked. Local Motors (LM) massaged the DARPA specs for the contest into a “brief,” a mission statement of what they desired, and posted it onto their website, asking their community members if they were interested in responding. Most of the community members are interested in industrial design and some helped LM design their Rally Fighter. Along the way, LM developed their concept for Local Forge, an open source web-based co-creation platform. Apparently, car lovers worldwide love to design shapes for cars of their dreams. Local Forge is a way for them to share their designs via images, with all other community members.

A key aspect of the mission statement was to use the existing Rally Fighter chassis as a base upon which to build the body. With the mission statement , eventually 150 to 180 proposal were submitted, from which the final design was chosen. The proposals could be in any electronic form, such as images or even CAD files. They had to show the 3 required views at a minimum. The community then voted on the submissions. Only the winning submitter gets paid. LM used SolidWorks for the mechanical design and Catia for the body design.

What next? Will it be produced? DARPA owns the design now that the contract is complete. A research arm of the DoD, the DoD may or may not choose to produce the design.

Has Local Motors discovered a new way of doing business that involves minimal plant investment, a way to solicit valuable (and mostly free) input from leading designers, and deliver an exciting new product? You be the judge. Visit some of the links from my previous article quoted above and provide some feedback via comments on this blog.

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