Get your face out of the eggnog and listen for a minute

The future is coming, and it’s coming in a 3d printed, North American manufactured, computer-driven electric car.

There are two ways this can go, and it’s really up to you. One way is the last-century model. Wait around long enough and GM will start cranking out some ghastly, bug-ridden, fragile POS. They’ll charge you 217 dollars for it, but it will break down every week and repairs, regardless of how minor, will always cost another hundred bucks. Every piece of equipment and software on it will be proprietary (and not very good, as a result), and only certified GM technicians will be allowed to service it, under threat of lawsuit and voiding the warranty.

But if we all pay attention and put in the effort, it can go the other way.

Toyota knows what’s up. They’re championing a new Linux distro – Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). Nissan, Intel, Samsung and some other big names are in on it as well. It’s the smart thing to do – crowd sourced software is cheaper, stronger, and better than anything proprietary, simply because anyone who has a vested interest in using the product has the ability to submit changes to make it be the way they need it. And even if the changes aren’t accepted by the project leaders, that vested developer can still download the code and change it however they want for their own purposes.

3D printers are hip, happening, and getting cheaper every week. And there’s an open source schematic for one that can reproduce itself. The next manufacturing boom isn’t going to come from enslaved Chinese babies. It’s going to be American entrepreneurs, you know, all those guys who got laid off in 2008 and haven’t found steady work yet, printing chassis’ up in their garage.

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The final step is the electric motor and power source. Not a new problem, and there are lots of old and new solutions. Pick your favorite and whang it into your 3d printed, Linux powered robot car.

I hear your pain – but Shannon, I LOVE driving! Why would I want a robot to do it for me? Hey, I’m with you, 100%. I spend every spare moment in the summer belting around single-lane backroads on my tiny motorbike. I love driving as much as anyone. But the early adopters aren’t going to be speed freaks like us – it’s going to be people who are Getting Shit Done(tm). Business people who have phone calls to make, code to write, spreadsheets to analyze, and places to go. Time spent in traffic is wasted time when you’re working for a living. Make the car work for you. It’s going to happen either either way, so let’s do it OUR way.

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Also, this: http://craphound.com/makers/

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Shannon Graham

Shannon has been writing brief essays and occasional how-to articles at Rocketships, Unaffiliated (.ca) whenever inspiration strikes, since 2012. She is interested in your opinion.

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