Crowd Revved Up by BMW Open Innovation Contest
BMW turns to online communities to help it design features for the cars of the future.
The way that cars are made hasn’t changed for generations. Companies employ designers who dream up a few models, then people higher up the corporate food chain give the green light to those they feel have the most potential. The cars are duly made and then shipped out to their markets.
But times are changing, and increasingly we are witnessing manufacturers enlisting the help of some of their passionate and enthusiastic customers through initiatives such as open innovation contests.
Urban Driving in 2025
One of the companies to adopt this approach is BMW. The German automobile maker wanted concepts and ideas to enhance the urban driving experience in cities of the future so it turned to the crowd. It teamed up with crowdsourced vehicle design company Local Motors and its community of 30,000 designers, engineers and enthusiasts.
A two-phase contest was created, 'The BMW Urban Driving Experience'. It wasn’t a vehicle design competition, more a search for ideas to improve the driving experience of premium vehicles in the megacities of the future. Megacities are defined by having 10 million or more residents.
The contest’s premise was that in the year 2025 these cities will face a number of difficult challenges including rapid population growth, increasing urbanisation and environmental pollution.
The first phase was a trawl for concepts that would guide the design of ideas in the second phase.
Approximately 3,500 design boards were sent in support of 400 concepts, and though the entries were unique, a number of common underlying themes emerged including gamification, car sharing and doing good.
Doing good was the theme that BMW selected for the competition’s second phase. Here, participants were set the objective of taking a resource within standard vehicle parameters and coming up with functional uses that would allow a car to contribute to our global well-being.
The Local Motors online community was invited to discuss and vote on submitted designs. The ultimate selection of winners was at the sole discretion of the crowdsourced vehicle company, though they took the crowd’s discussions into consideration.
Three Winners Selected
“With the creative process of the BMW Urban Driving Experience Challenge, we entered new territory in the way we think and create innovations,” said Dr. Christoph Grote, Managing Director of BMW Group Research and Technology.
The first prize check of $7,500 was awarded to Cosmin Mandita for ‘BMW Light My Way’. The idea envisions making drastic cuts in the electricity consumption of street lights by placing proximity sensors in cars. As people/cars approach parked vehicles their lights come on and illuminate the way. They automatically switch off once the vehicles and or pedestrians have passed by.
Second prize and a check for $2,500 were awarded to Xavier Gordillo for ‘BMW Connected Park’. This idea brings networking to parked cars so that they can communicate with each other. An example given of how this might be useful was if a mother lost her child. She could approach a car, explain the situation and it would activate cameras in all the other vehicles in the network. Other uses could be to identify parking places and spot stolen cars.
Third prize and a check for $1,500 were awarded to James Lin for ‘The Lifeboat’. This is a car model that could supply Wi-Fi and electricity during emergency situations/disaster scenarios.
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