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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Enough with the fluff: The Automotive X-Prize

I've given some thought to the original X-Prize recently. While it led to some amazing innovations in the funding of spaceflight, increases in cost efficiency and improving the environmental impact of space flight, it didn't touch the average person. While space flight is nice, and, I believe, vital to the continuation of the human species, it lacks an immediacy, an impact on their daily lives. However, given its successes, it can be viewed as a proof-of-concept for the much more immediately important Automotive X-Prize. The final draft has yet to be released. However, over 30 teams have already signed letters of intent to compete. The goal of this is to produce a commercially-viable automobile capable of a fuel economy of 100 mpg or equivalent. It is my belief and my hope that this venture will be able to do through the power of human ingenuity and the competitive spirit that drives very nearly all meaningful change what government regulations have thus far failed to do, and do them in a much faster manner than the, ahem, hallowed halls of government bureaucracy are capable of achieving.

When people purchase a car, they typically ask themselves if it looks good, if they can afford it, and if it can do what they need it to do, not necessarily in that order. I think if a car is capable of answering all three of those questions satisfactorily and achieve a fuel economy exceeding 100 mpg, the age of the gas guzzler will well and truly be over, and the environment will be improved as a result.


Snave said...

What you said!

I truly believe that getting the private sector involved in creating a better car is the only way to go. Same with space flight. The government is too beholden to too many special interests, regardless of which party is in control, for anything to really happen with American-made automobiles, and NASA has grown stale IMHO.

With 30 teams competing, I can't begin to imagine how cool some of the projects will turn out. And with that many results from which to choose for a prize, if this is given enough publicity the public will demand mass production of some of the projects. I can see independent automakers making inroads into auto sales in America. Of course special interests may unite to try and squash such things, but an Automotive X-Prize not only lights a fire under innovators, but also under the general public if it is managed right.

As for space flights, I find myself getting pissed off every time I hear about another space shuttle mission. I'm ready for something different. The fact that we haven't been to the moon in something like 30 years is almost enough to make me think that maybe the moon missions WERE faked... what gives? If we could do it back when we did, in the late 60s and early 70s, in the days when the technology was primitive compared to what we have nowadays, why did the moon missions suddenly end, and why don't we have a manned moon settlement by now? I think that if NASA has a vision, their vision is myopic, or worse. Yes, let private innovators take us to the moon, and beyond. Personally, I don't think NASA will survive much longer in its present form... they are about one or two more shuttle disasters from having the manned space flight program shut down. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this current problem with the shuttle possibly not being safe for re-entry will end up not being a problem after all...

1138 said...

Environmental concerns aside I have one word Wankel.
And even those concerns can be set aside if modern computer technology is applied to the engine.
100mpg is a good goal, but the octane should be a considered component.

Lizzy said...

I am in the market for a new car. My first choice was a Prius, but when I test drove it, I didn't feel safe because I'm used to driving a truck. When I drove the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, I immediately knew it was the car for me. Good fuel economy, looks good, and I felt safe - those are my top 3.

The Automotive X-Prize is an excellent idea.

1138 said...

People also took for a track record of reliability for the company and the technology.
That may be a much harder hurdle to jump.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Yes, and no. I can easily see Toyota or Honda gobbling such a smaller company up, which would overcome concerns about the company and would mostly overcome concerns about the technology. The reason I mentioned those over the "Big Three" is that all I can see them doing is circling the drain. Sure, Ford and GM can fight over trucks, but barring rednecks and professionals, the real game is in small to mid-size cars, and even now, SUV's. I'll not miss GM and Ford when they're gone.