Wikispeed: the collaborative car that consumes 2.5 L per 100 kms

Friday, October 5th, at the invitation of the IONIS Group, students from EPITA, ESME Sudria and IPSA, were able to attend a lecture by Joe Justice, CEO of Wikispeed. In front of a packed house (over 200 attentive people in the audience) the founder of Wikispeed spoke. The keynote of Wikispeed is to develop an open source, secure and reliable car, able to travel 100 miles with only a gallon of gasoline (or 2.35 L per 100 km), and cheap ($ 25,000, with an ultimate goal of $ 17,000 per vehicle). Today Wikispeed gathers together nearly 150 members in 18 countries and focuses just on the automotive industry. Through its innovative work methods (Agile, Lean, Scrum …) and responsiveness Wikispeed has interested many industries. These are the methods that the American entrepreneur presented.

image Wikispeed.jpg                          Joe Justice speaking to the Engineering students from IONIS Group

Genesis Project

Given the fact that industrial development times were extremely long (a new car model on sale today has sometimes been conceived there over 20 years) in a world where innovation is going at full speed, Joe Justice first stook it into his head to establish a renewal cycle of seven days. Thus, he was able to quickly see the qualities and defects of its construction and adapt quickly to the needs of the moment.
In order to apply this reactivity  to a car, he started on a car model composed by eight interchangeable structures and little or no dependent from each other (chassis, engine, body …). Thus, the owner of a Wikispeed car must, if want to, change the engine of his car – to go from an engine fueled with bio-ethanol to an electric motor, for example – using as much time as it takes to change a wheel.

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Methods applied to the computer industry

To make this possible, Joe Justice was first inspired by Agile, Lean and Scrum methods. These practices mainly prevalent in software design (Joe Justice is primarily a computer engineer), are based on simple principles as a better distribution of labor, advanced planning to avoid hidden delays (Kanban), sharing knowledge through work in pairs (one teaching techniques, other learners), the ability to see very quickly (within seven days) the impact of his work … Moreover, thanks to a battery of simulations and tests before, during and after construction, the team Wikispeed ensures the safety of its vehicles. Another efficiency factor: the good mood. Maintain a pleasant and cordial social relations at work increases productivity and innovation; common sense brought back into fashion.

From the shoebox to the race car

Wikispeed is the first car out of the private garage of Joe Justice in 2010. After three months from conception through the first mile, it became the gasoline vehicle the most efficient in the world, making the bet to travel 100 miles on one gallon of gasoline. A year later, the design of the body has been studied in more detail. Through
international collaborations, a shaped curve car was born. The vehicle is not only more efficient and less polluting, it is also more beautiful. This allowed him to be presented in August at the biggest automotive exhibition of the world, the Detroit Auto Show in Detroit, USA. The car on display at the convention was assembled in three hours by a group of 23 people, 19 of whom had never heard of the project before.

wikispeed-3.jpg                                      Evolution of Wikispeed car design

The open source car

Most plans of the car and all the components are freely available on the Internet. Also, any individual interested in the project may propose additions, or make his own Wikispeed car . Currently, the project staff is working on a Wikispeed truck or van.

Exchanges are made through social networks and through collaborative tools like Skype, Dropbox, Skydrive … These tools did not exist ten years ago. From a managerial point of view, these developments are of paramount importance: while the technical power has grown exponentially in the last 20 years, industrial profits have only decreased. The audit firm Deloitte explains this paradox by a difference of industrial culture.

Where a company will buy very expensive equipment to make mass-produced cars , the team Wikispeed will provide a tool with similar efficiency, but at a cost 50,000 times less. In addition, the use of equipment that has been used or given is at the heart of the model Wikispeed.

This new industrial culture has called to mind larger and older structures than Wikispeed. Among them, we can count John Deere (farm vehicles), Boeing (aircraft) or Tait (radios). During visits in these companies and workshops with teams, Joe Justice was able to present the Wikispeed methods. Because if you can not change suddenly decades of corporate culture, the weekly questioning can lead to significant improvements.

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                           Application of Agile, Lean and Scrum at the Detroit Auto Show (USA)

Wikispeed, a project in constant evolution

With these devices, Wikispeed think it can put an end to planned obsolescence, through the instant update. Quickly, the media have been interested in the project. This interest has allowed Wikispeed to raise funds through the Internet. Today Wikispeed is also working on construction projects of clinics or low-cost ways to efficiently transport vaccines against polio. Always putting into practice the Agile, Lean and Scrum methods.
After this presentation, Joe Justice invited the students to join his project, provided an involvement ranging from two to four hours a week. Many of these aspiring engineers were enthusiastic.