Some say that if you want to change the world you need to think globally and act locally. But what if you could get the world to do the thinking for you? That’s what Local Motors is doing in the arena of crowd-sourced automobile design.
The Chandler, Arizona-based startup automaker has created a platform where people can use its virtual “co-creative living room” to contribute ideas for vehicles that are brought together into a single, collective design. It’s a similar concept to open source computer programming, and it seems to be working.
The company’s first vehicle, a high-performance off-roader called the Rally Fighter, has garnered a lot of attention, not just for its innovative design, but for how it is built. In a way to circumvent the arduous certification processes major automakers have to face when introducing a new vehicle, customers who buy the Rally Fighter actually travel to the company’s “microfactory” and spend six days helping to build it, allowing it to be registered in most states as a component car -- more commonly known as a ‘kit’ car. Twenty-five have been delivered so far, and Local Motors founder Jay Rogers says expects 120 more to be built in 2012.
Given the somewhat guerilla way Local Motors does business, it’s interesting to note that a military take on the Rally Fighter called the Flypmode won a contest run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) earlier this year that asked entrants to develop a high-speed reconnaissance an evacuation vehicle quickly and at low cost.
Local Motors did it in just four and a half months.
The company was even honored for its work in a ceremony hosted by President Obama. As a retired U.S. Marine who saw friends die in Iraq, Rogers hopes his work will help to bring safer, more effective vehicles to the front lines.
Bolstered by its growing success, Rogers tells FoxNews.com that Local Motors is taking its model to the next level. Called The Forge, it’s a more advanced version of the original online community and now offers new tools like its Solid Edge Design1 CAD software available for a monthly subscription and a social networking system where members can ‘like’ the work of others to highlight the most successful submissions.
Next Year, Local Motors will be leveraging the potential of The Forge for a new project that Local Motors is working on in conjunction with Shell which aims to develop “cars of the future” targeted to geographic areas.
As a part of the oil giant’s Game Changer program, which aims to address issues facing the energy issue, the two companies are holding a competition that will focus on five cities across the world, including Houston, Amsterdam and Basra, Iraq, for which contestants will be challenged to conceive cars specifically geared toward the local driving environment.
“The Shell corporation has delivered ideas from each of those areas,” Rogers says. “What would a future fuel vehicle look like from there? Our community is going to go to work running a competition, and Shell will offer up the money for the prize in that competition, and it will result in a vehicle for each of those areas.”
More details on the contest will be revealed in the coming weeks, but one thing is clear. This small, local company is quickly becoming a global player in the automotive industry.
Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.