Cars are so last century … but, so is Linux, right?

This past weekend, I attended the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. I’m not a huge car buff. I do think that BMW’s are the bomb, and I like Honda’s common sense vehicles, but really, I am NOT a car guy. However, I thought this was an interesting chance to take a look at an industry that, in my opinion, isn’t all that different than the one I’m in.

Now, that may surprise some. Its pretty easy to think that I work for a super advanced company that has started a revolution and sits on the bleeding edge of innovation. I mean, at Canonical, we’re doing all kinds of amazing stuff with “the cloud” and building software that makes peoples’ jaw drop when they see it in action sometimes.

But really, I think we’re more like CODA. CODA has built what looks to be a sustainable, practical electric car. The car itself is not visually stunning, but the idea behind it is. Make an electric car that anyone can buy *and* use. Make it fun, and make sure the business is sustainable. But, in no way is CODA challenging the ideas and revisions that have worked for the 100+ years that the car industry has existed.

CODA is still putting a steering wheel, gas pedals, and gear shift in the cockpit for the driver. There are doors, wipers, lights, and probably floor mats. In much the same way, in Ubuntu, we’re still putting our software out there with the intention that, while its created differently, and affords the user more capabilities, it is basically driven in much the same way as Windows 7 or OS X, mostly as a web, errrr, cloud terminal.

The exciting part is that for $3 of possibly more efficiently produced electricity, you can drive 100 miles. Even more exciting is that the CODA might actually compete with sensibly priced  (but larger) Honda and Toyota sedans, rather than like the Tesla cars that compete with Lexus and BMW’s.

Given this way of thinking, the auto show was extremely interesting. The electric car (open source?) has “arrived”, and the established players are buying the interesting enabling technology like batteries (android’s linux kernel, darwin for mac, etc) from companies like Tesla, and putting them in their established products.

Whether consumers care about either open source or electric cars is another story.. maybe the 2011 LA Auto Show will have an answer for me on at least one of them.

3 thoughts on “Cars are so last century … but, so is Linux, right?

  1. Uhhh…you sure about the CODA' cost of ownership? $37,400 for any vehicle is expensive. I mean that’s like finding out the Lixus distro you downloaded just charged $150 on your card.

    The first with a sub-$15,000 electric car that doesn’t look like an electric car with at least a 100 mile range will be the mass-market winner me thinks.

  2. Man you guys are almost 15 years behind the times. It’s been done, done right, and killed by the car companies a long time ago now. Going to an auto show for electric car information is like going to a Microsoft convention for information on Free software.

    They tell you it’s slow, expensive, only goes 100 miles, and looks like something Peewee Hermon drives and you believe them?

  3. @Yzmir: right, government subsidies DO reduce that quite a bit, but its still expensive. They’ll have to scale up production quite a bit to make this work.

    @Greg: I’ve added that one to my netflix instant queue. I still think the advances in battery technology make the cars more viable. I also think that companies like CODA and Tesla have established a firm footing, and will keep the old guard honest, so I don’t think its fair to say that just because the car companies dominate the show that there’s no useful information there.

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