Sunday, April 29, 2007

Not Your Father's Car

I know this was news a couple of weeks ago, but I still want to bring it to your attention just in case you missed it. The same people who brought us the Ansari X Prize are now bringing us the Automotive X Prize. The idea is to try to spur development of a commercially viable 100 MPG car.

I think that is awesome! I love creative ideas for trying to promote innovation. The X Prize for the rocket was cool and all, but this Automotive X Prize has the real possibility of impacting all our lives in the near future not just the lives of billionaires and hundred millionaires. The more ideas we can get for this and other problems, the better off we will be.

However, while looking at ways to improve existing transportation methods, I hope we are also able to spur a diverse marketplace of automotive technologies. Too many people seem to be looking for a silver bullet solution to our traffic woes and our gasoline dependence. For example, the "hydrogen economy" was all the rage at the water cooler a while back. Well, the water cooler where I work anyway.

I think this narrow view (at least here in the US) is caused by the fact that we've basically had one solution our whole lives: gasoline powered automobiles. We're so dependent on these things, that almost any city that has seen significant growth since the '40s has a design that basically only accommodates cars and is hostile to any other form of transportation including pedestrians. So, when we think of solutions, we tend to think that there must be just one solution when in fact there are many solutions to our problem. At least, I'd like to think so.

I'd like to see a true marketplace for transportation. Not just a marketplace for conventional cars and trucks and sometimes motorcycles. I'd like to see whole new categories of automobiles and cities that accommodate them. So, with that segue, did you hear that the Smart Car is coming to the US next year? I'm keeping my eye on that.

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