Reducing Time To Market Through Modular Car Design

Car technology evolves slowly compared to computing. Compared to Silicon Valley's rain forest of innovation, Detroit is a relative economic wasteland. Why these differences? Harvard Business School professors Carliss Baldwin and Kim Clark say modularity made the computer industry what it is today. Can making car design and manufacture modular speed innovation and reduce time to market? Can modular organization make the car industry as vibrant and profitable as the computer industry? We will explore whether the principles of open source can help the car industry adapt to Silicon Valley's pace.

Speaker: Edward Durney
Edward Durney is founder and CEO of A Truly Electric Car Company. Originally a computer scientist and a lawyer, he worked in Tokyo and Silicon Valley in a variety of jobs, including 4 years as BEA Systems' general counsel as BEA went from a raw startup with just its 3 founders to almost $1 billion in revenue and 2,000 people. For the past 10 years, he has worked on electric car technology.

As usual, refreshments starting at about 6:30 pm for pre-registrants only. Lecture starting at about 7 pm for anyone who shows up. Please sign in the Hacker Dojo front desk on your way in.

Note that Hacker Dojo is (since January) in a new Mountain View location that is accessible by Light Rail from San Jose or from Mountain View Caltrain.

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  • Steve

    This lecture reminded me of a very good book, Reinventing the Automobile, http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/reinventing-automobile.

    The authors of this book also argue for more modular construction of vehicles and cite examples of such architectures, like MIT's CityCar. (They don't really argue for component compatibility across auto manufacturers, however.)

    The more profound thing in these car designs is not modularity, rather its the electric "skateboard" architecture, which allows a flat platform for myriad, innovative car bodies and interiors. This was my first time joining this group, so I wanted to thank Allison and Robert for coordinating.

    1 · May 10, 2013

    • Alison C.

      I'm in no rush: I'll put a notice in the event reminder for 6/12, and we can have a luncheon or dinner or coffee in July or August.

      May 31, 2013

    • Eunice

      Great! Thanks Alison. Hope I am not spamming the members' inbox now ;)

      May 31, 2013

  • Noah R.

    Sounds to me MQB is a new chassis designation to be used across a few vehicles sizes.... So while an E36 and E39 chassis, for example, are different designations, their base architecture is extremely similar. Almost all BMWs could be called, for example, MQB and simply come in different lengths.

    I suppose this philosophy could reduce the debate to two distinct business strategies:
    1. (effort toward) consolidation (of body styles) into gross-weight (requirements)
    VS
    2. (effort toward) myriad of (of body styles) into niche-filling (requirements)
    With Ford and VW as respective examples.

    1 · May 20, 2013

  • guy d.

    Thanks for sharing the VW link. After the event was over, I realized I ought to have asked the presenter "What did you do with the rear axle you took out of the Ranger truck ( to make it modular ) ?" Because I need one.

    May 20, 2013

  • Eunice

    Read about Volkswagen MQB platform (Modular Transverse Matrix), the next gen manufacturing strategy. http://www.autoweek.com/article/20130212/CARNEWS/130219954

    May 20, 2013

  • Alison C.

    http://www.bmw-i.com/en_ww/concept/

    BMW's modular car concepts including the replaceable "Life Module"

    1 · May 9, 2013

    • Khanh

      This reminds me of something GM was working on, but with hydrogen. It was a number of years ago, but they talk about the "skateboard" platform. I recall reading about it in Wired magazine, but this is the closest thing I could find. http://money.cnn.com/...­

      May 11, 2013

    • Noah R.

      hmmm... Separate structures might be practical if they were using explosive bolts to separate impulse forces in crashes (like F1's weak points in its engine and corner assemblies). It sounds terrific, but would it meet FMVSS... and would your "survival-cell"­ careening free of the chassis down a crowded highway without brakes require a parachute and plenty of liability ins?

      Active-aero-bodies could change an aerodynamic fastback into a large-capacity hatch and serve the same purpose as wholly replacing bodies but for less cost.... Or maybe 1-5 passenger cars can get away with using the same basic chassis but keep in mind cars range 1,[masked],000 lbs. Chassis are my favorite part of cars. Anytime.

      May 12, 2013

  • Tim C.

    Interesting article in automotive news about Microsoft wanting to become key player in auto software. Operating systems would control many functions of vehicle. Mentions the GENIVI Alliance
    http://bit.ly/18xhuIa

    May 9, 2013

    • Alison C.

      To be honest, the article is a pretty poor one. MSFT isn't just now trying to make a mark in the new market: they have been in automotive for years, and are already ahead in terms of installed base, and QNX (now Blackberry OS) is ahead of them. GENIVI is going to announce a lot of cars for coming years, but I'm not the spokesperson for those companies.   The reference to Ford's Sync being "popular" in the article shows how poorly informed the author is: Sync was lambasted, notably by N.Y. Times and Consumer Reports, and Ford fell sharply in J.D. Power satisfaction ratings as a result of customer hatred of the interface. The N.Y. Times article is here: https://www.nytimes.co...­

      May 10, 2013

    • Tim C.

      Thanks for the feedback Alison. I agree that Ford Sync has not be as positively received as the article would make it appear but this publication usually a good news story and unlikely to be critical.

      May 10, 2013

  • Noah R.

    Excellent meetup. Presentation seems to be a call to building partnerships within the emerging electric vehicle markets.... Combustion cars are already extremely modular. Check protean electric for a drop-in solution and mission motors for an outstanding drive train performer. Electric cars are faster-for-me, cleaner-for-me, and quieter-for-me. They aren't cost effective for the same reason oil is less cost effective than wood gasification... luckily the market will trump cost with faster/cleaner/quieter except maybe in California which makes laws to edge the fiscally conservative toward more elegant lifestyle i.e. CARB.

    May 8, 2013

  • Alison C.

    Edward's technical paper that covers the topic of yesterday's talk:

    http://files.meetup.com/2623882/Durney_ModularDesign_May2013.pdf

    May 8, 2013

  • Art

    Excellent presentation by Ed Durney. I really appreciated the Q & A which helped me understand the range of modularity which happened in the computer industry and how different the auto industry integration evolved. Dividing functional modules into "black boxes" with defined interfaces, and required testability could mean cars would truly become modular. The benefits are extraordinary.

    1 · May 8, 2013

  • Saket

    Very interesting presentation and lively discussions. Thanks Edward.

    1 · May 7, 2013

  • John

    Stuck

    May 7, 2013

  • Umesh G.

    Innovative cars will need sustainable supportive ecosystems, imagine making smartphone with older electronics. Looking forward to a very interesting talk. Thanks.

    May 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Its in May - not March ... :)

    March 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is the date correct? i received an invite for this only yesterday. thank you.

    March 12, 2013

  • Bob C.

    This sounds very interesting. I'm sorry that I will have to miss it.

    March 12, 2013

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