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Open Source Autos Hit the Streets in Spain 110

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the racing-at-slow-speeds dept.
markdowling writes "BBC News has a story about electrically powered tourist cars in Cordoba which provide tourist information in French, English and Spanish as landmarks are passed. The promoter, Alfredo Romeo, calls them Blobjects which he heard described in a speech by Bruce Sterling. The car's tourist guide software is open source - Romeo's quoted reason: 'With proprietary software, innovation comes from the people in marketing. But with open source, innovation comes from the guy who is really in the market. It comes from someone who knows the city.'"
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Open Source Autos Hit the Streets in Spain

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  • by Hulkster (722642) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:24PM (#13428640) Homepage
    For those interested in more details about the GEM car and some MUCH better pictures than the small ones in the BBC article, here's GEM's web site. [gemcar.com]

    Ironically, the Wikipedia Blobject article [wikipedia.org] says it "needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. This article has been tagged since April 2005" - you'd think that all those "hip" Blogject'ers would have made this entry super cool and happening.

    Concrete Cam [komar.org] is up and running.

    • by garcia (6573) * on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:27PM (#13428662) Homepage
      Best of all, for all of its innovative design, GEM is suprisingly affordable.

      Yeah, the GEM is surprisingly affordable but it certainly doesn't have an "innovative design" as it's just about the same as any electric golf cart with a roof and seatbelts.
      • but it certainly doesn't have an "innovative design" as it's just about the same as any electric golf cart with a roof and seatbelts.

        Yes, it's an insult to innovation. Look, they're stealing the all-innovative car design with 4 wheels and a motor! Unbelievable.
      • These were available for about $8K in the US. Kind of overpriced for a glorified golf cart with a Mercedes-Benz logo slapped on it. Plastic sheeting for weather protection. AFAIK they run on lead-acid batteries.

        Let's see if this guy still thinks they're affordable once the touristas have trashed all his batteries in six months. Although IIRC Cordova's not that hilly.

        Here in the SF Bay Area, you can buy two used Segways and upgrade them with fresh NiMh batteries for about the same price, maybe a little more
    • No regen brakes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Migraineman (632203) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:49PM (#13428844)
      I find it difficult to believe that an EV manufacturer would product a series of EV's that don't include regenerative brakes. Another reader commented that this is "a modified golf cart," and I'd have to say he's right. I'd have *some* respect for these folks if they had regen brakes as an option, or had "regen + hydraulic backup." As it stands, it really is just a golf cart with a NEV rating. Meh ...
      • Re:No regen brakes (Score:2, Informative)

        by entirety (909951)
        From the 2005 user manual... ----snip----- Speed Control: GE solid state controller with: * Motor thermal protection * Battery under-voltage protection * Regenerative brakes ----------Looks regenerative to me. * Top speed regulation ----end snip--
      • If only they'd have had you on the design team! The thought must never even have entered their minds...
      • I find it difficult to believe that an EV manufacturer would product a series of EV's that don't include regenerative brakes.

        Who the hell said they don't have regenerative brakes? They DO have regenerative brakes. Not only does it say so in the docs on their website, but I've even driven one up/down hills and watched as the battery meter goes UP (a couple percent) as it is stopping.

        Another reader commented that this is "a modified golf cart," and I'd have to say he's right.

        No, it's not. They have less i

  • by blowdart (31458) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:24PM (#13428641) Homepage
    But that apparently means slashdot can call the whole car open source.

    Is there anything factual these days in topics, or is it just astroturfing for OSTG?

  • pun? (Score:4, Funny)

    by jshaped (899227) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:25PM (#13428651)
    "The promoter, Alfredo Romeo,..."

    did anybody else read this as Alfa Romeo?
  • by Kenja (541830)
    Bad choice of titles, should have avoided the word "hit". I just get this image of a massive car wreck as penguin feathers drift slowly to the ground. Perhaps "Open Source Autos Released in Spain" or somthing.
  • Informative Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:30PM (#13428692)

    The promoter, Alfredo Romeo, calls them Blobjects which he heard described in a speech by Bruce Sterling.

    Here's a link [boingboing.net] to the Bruce Sterling speech, referenced by Alfredo Romeo, courtesy of
    boingboing. [boingboing.net]
  • Slow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BrookHarty (9119) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:30PM (#13428697) Homepage Journal
    These GEM's are really niche market. Great for little towns where its 20mph or less, but if you hold up traffic then they are in the wrong place. Just as golf carts in the USA, they are a pain in the ass when given the right of way.

    GEMcar.com even says "build the town/neighborhood around the car"..

    • And limited range.

      I drive 30 miles to work one way. I would need a recharge just to get home - forget about cruising around to other locations.
      • You spend 95% of your life at two places. Home and Work.

        What would possess you to live so far away? Time to start thinking about living closer to work -- your car is an unimagined luxury, and your not going to have that leisure for long...

        the Chinease and Indians might like lightbulbs and concrete floors for their huts -- thats going to take PLENTY of gas. Your going to compete in the international marketplace for that oil.

        What do you think its going to cost you to drive your existing car 30miles in 15,
        • Re:Slow... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by geomon (78680)
          You spend 95% of your life at two places. Home and Work. What would possess you to live so far away?

          Because I can have room for my dogs (two German Shorthair) to run and my nearest neighbor is 30 meters from my house. I also have a spectacular view of the river from my house.

          Time to start thinking about living closer to work..

          Well, that is one possible way to attack the problem. I prefer to do more of my work at home, thereby not starting my internal combustion engine at all.

          -- your car is an unimagined lux
    • Re:Slow... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bombadillo (706765)
      These GEM's are really niche market. Great for little towns where its 20mph or less, but if you hold up traffic then they are in the wrong place. Just as golf carts in the USA, they are a pain in the ass when given the right of way. GEMcar.com even says "build the town/neighborhood around the car"..

      These could work in really big Cities. Traffic in big congested cities is stop and go and averages about 20MPH. Unfortunately modern U.S. cities have given up the grid patern and let the developers do the
      • These could work in really big Cities. Traffic in big congested cities is stop and go and averages about 20MPH. Unfortunately modern U.S. cities have given up the grid patern and let the developers do the planing ad hoc with huge high ways.

        The big arteries usually have more than 2 lanes, and the outer lanes (on a surface street, not a restricted-access freeway) probably already has people turning in and out of driveways, parallel parking, etc. A slow-moving vehicle in the outer lane isn't going to be a b

      • I was wondering what these things were, but didn't care enough to look. I've seen these going around my neighborhood for a couple of months now (East Village, New York City). It looks like the NYC Parks Department is one of their customers; they are probably good for shuttling between the various myriad of parks in the city.

        And no, since the average car speed in Manhattan is 4 MPH, I don't think theyre holding anything up. (Sometimes I will walk down a street faster than a bus gets down the same dis

    • Yea, there's a couple people in the town I live in that bought them and started driving them around. Needless to say they were driving the local populace (including me) absolutely nuts. They can only go 20-25mph or so.

      Eventually the city council passed a local ordinance banning them from any street where the speed limit is greater than 25 mph. So they're actually quite useless for driving around town.

      What GEM needs to do is make a model that can go 25-35 or so. Then they'd be recieved better by the communit
    • Great for little towns where its 20mph or less, but if you hold up traffic then they are in the wrong place.

      Sorry. Your right to use the public streets, at unsafe speeds (yes, 50km is unsafe enough to kill you, a pedestrian or someone else you hit..).

      My 20km electric car has every right on the public roadway as your speeding death-machine.

      I ride a bike in a poorly planned, sprawling Canadian city of 350,000 (metro) all year. I have a good job and pay plenty of taxes -- im becoming VERY of people rushing u
  • "Powered by Linux"

    Just spotted on the register: "As usual, shipments of Linux servers grew fastest. The Penguin's presence swelled by 45 per cent in terms of revenue, outpacing the 14 per cent growth of Windows servers and the 3 per cent Unix server growth."

  • +1 Insightful? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rurik (113882) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:32PM (#13428714)
    'With proprietary software, innovation comes from the people in marketing. But with open source, innovation comes from the guy who is really in the market. It comes from someone who knows the city.'

    Is it possible to give a quoted source in an article +1 for Insightful?

    • Insightful? That's the part of the quote I immediately rolled my eyes at -- it's incredibly stupid and ignorant. How does he think products get developed in the real world? Got news for him -- big companies with lots of resources produce most of computer innovation. I'm still waiting for something innovative to come out of Open Source. Most, if not all, of it is copying proprietary software.

      Not to say that Open Source isn't useful, I use it every day. But innovation is not (currently) what Open Source is

      • As you've so rightly pointed out, utility and innovation are two completely different things. Open Source, while posessing lots of utility, doesn't posess much innovation.

      • Re:+1 Insightful? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dotlin (532442)

        ... big companies with lots of resources produce most of computer innovation. I'm still waiting for something innovative to come out of Open Source. Most, if not all, of it is copying proprietary software.

        Your statement hinges on your definition of innovation. I find that word often used as a buzzword, usually in the same breath as patents. I'm sure if you counted all the software patents that there are more owned by proprietary software companies. If however you use the word innovation to mean "a ne

    • With Open Source, innovation usually comes from the guy who is copying the feature set of some existing closed source application.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-Open Source, but to suggest that OSS is generally innovative requires hitting the Kool-Aid pretty friggin' hard.

      If you disagree, post counter-examples that prove I'm wrong rather than modding me down, please.

    • Is it possible to give a quoted source in an article +1 for Insightful?

      It's possible, but "-1, Troll" would be more appropriate.

  • Optimism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by truckaxle (883149) * on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:33PM (#13428725) Homepage
    It costs about US$50 (£28) for a two-hour rental

    This sounds low and optimistic. I wish them luck but when you are dealing with the public you have to design for the lowest common denominator and that can be surprisingly low. Liability insurance will cost an arm and leg for this venture.

    Also there is a certain sense of entitlement and disrespect of others or common property that is engrained in the public mind. This is why projects that attempt to altrustically provide free public bicycles often (always?) fail.

    But the open source software sounds cool.
    • In Spain, insurance is considerably less and services on the whole are much cheaper than in the states.
      • What are you saying they don't have a lottery style legal liability system where someone with deep pockets is liable for every stupid thing that happens to people. How unamerican! I say we liberate them from such tyranny.
    • Re:Optimism (Score:3, Insightful)

      by guaigean (867316)
      You're kidding right? I can rent a car on average in the US I can rent a full size car for a full day for ~$50. Are you telling me that $50 for two hours in a golf cart is cheap?
    • $50 is a lot, you can get an actual gasoline rental car for around $100 for a whole day, or a Zipcar for around $5 an hour.
      • Yeah, and a street legal golf cart will run you about $5k or more; horrible value compared to a car. It's the novelty of the thing.
    • Um, this is in Spain, not the U.S.

      The Spanish are not sue-happy like we are.
      As far as trashing the cars, I can tell you that, as a whole, attitudes are very different.

      Oh wait, the cars *are* for tourists, many of whom will be Americans.

      Never mind.
    • You of course forget that liability laws in europer in general aren't as nuts as the U.S of A and probably wouldn't be as big a problem.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:39PM (#13428758) Homepage

    The computer system is based on open source software developed by a company in Seville, Spain. As with any open source software, anyone can improve and change Blobject's code, as long as those improvements and changes are shared with others.


    really? what company? where is a link to the sourcecode? I love stories devoid of information and throw around the term "open source"
    • "Open source" doesn't require a link to source code, let alone that a BBC article about you have a link to source code.

      Buy yourself a Blobject, request the source code and complain to us if they don't provide it. When we stop laughing at you in your silly golf cart, we'll get outraged then.

  • by 8127972 (73495) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:39PM (#13428762)
    Link [aromeo.net] to the Alfredo Romeo website in English with some interesting details on these cars.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:41PM (#13428770)
    "open source auto" = "a regular car with a tour guide program which is ostensibly open source".

    Big difference, there, "Scuttlemonkey".
  • They also made another version, in a factory down south to promote employment in that region. They call it the Alfredosud.
  • 'With proprietary software, innovation comes from the people in marketing. But with open source, innovation comes from the guy who is really in the market. It comes from someone who knows the city.'

    Well, but they only know it from Google Maps. The guys from marketing at least can tell the dear visitor the coolest, newest and hippest clubs in town.

    • Now, if they added a GPS to the thing, and some way for the driver to register, on returning to the vehicle, that they had had a good time at the current local, maybe even the restaurant/theatre/etc they visited, then the car could be actively feeding information about what is good in the city for future visitors.
  • Misleading title (Score:3, Informative)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:49PM (#13428838) Journal
    My chauffeur is sick, anyone know where to find a driver for this peripheral?

    Seriously, the car operating software is not open-source... it's the navigational system software that is. The owner of the company makes a valid point about marketing-driven vs. user-driven software, but I surmise that this is a great example of OS working in the market...

    It's cheaper to use open-source in some circumstances.

    However, it is very misleading to write that the car is open-source.
  • ...have never been spoken. What do marketers really know anyway. Other than what's shiny... ;P
    • No, it's vapid and devoid of content, much like your post.

      Maybe I'm just a dumb slave, but the fact is I like and use some propietary software. Does that mean I am a marketing droid unable to think for myself? No, it means that I saw what was out there and made a choice, the very definition of freedom. I also use a lot of OSS tools, does that mean anything? Not really, there is a market, and I made a choice.

      The one thing I can't stand about OSS zealouts is how they scream "freedom" but get mad when free
    • Marketers may or may not know anything at all. The person quoted certainly doesn't know what they're talking about. I write proprietary software, and marketers are not the drivers of any design or technical decisions whatsoever. They just ask questions about the software after it's done, and promote it based on features that strike me as trivial or irrelevant. For example, it's no doubt a marketer who decided they should push the "open-source" nature of this car. The engineers would know that 99% of th
      • Speed controllers! Who cares about the speed controllers!? The important content is the tour-guide box because without it how do you expect the city to market itself!!!? ;P

        I am not a marketer. I'm a musician who manages a lot of different systems (OSes, routers, switches, etc...). I do it all. Scripting, coding, configs, managing staff, working with vendors and clients, etc... ad nauseum. Yep. Not a marketer.

        • I didn't mean you were a marketer, but rather Alfredo Romeo, who's seems to elsewhere be named Alfredo Romeo Molina; but I can't tell if the difference is Spanish last name conventions which I don't fully understand, or a concious effort to make his name sound like Alpha-Romeo when connected to cars. In any case, he seems to not have developed any of the tech involved, but just markets it. He also writes books that look to me like Spanish language re-hashings of English language open source boosterism. B
  • by Otter (3800) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:50PM (#13428848) Journal
    I've had a series of JE's as new candidates for Worst Word Ever emerge -- I believe that most recently "malternative" knocked off "blogmarklet".

    But "blobject" is a simply a horror of Lovecraftian proportions.

  • See more here (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • Well, could be worse. At least it's not a wall or something.

    I wonder if the car was windows.
  • by eno2001 (527078) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:49PM (#13429460) Homepage Journal
    ...I wouldn't be caught dea in one of those disasters on wheels. Here is why:

    1. It's too small. I weigh about 450 Lbs due to my healthy and steady Amuricuhn diet of fast food and convenience snacks. I might be able to sit in it by myself, but I'd like to have my wife and kids with me and I don't see how that little thing is going to handle 1400 Lbs total for my family of three.

    2. Is uses electricity which is inferior to petroleum for the amount of energy produced per gallon. One gallon of electricity gets you what? Ten feet mabye? Sorry, but give me an Escalade with extra gas tanks.

    3. It looks wimpy. Just picture yourself going around full throttle at 20 MPH! When I get in a car, I want to go 0-80 in no more than 15 seconds. Again, give me an Escalade.

    4. Where's the DVD player? My son likes to ask a lot of stupid questions about stuff we're driving past when we're on vacation. Like when we drove past the Grand Canyon, he asked if we could get out and look at it. For god sakes! If god had intended for us to actually walk around natural formations like that he would have made us donkeys or billy goats instead of people. My kid needs to have his eyes locked on a DVD or video game so he doesn't ask stupid questions. That's a MAJOR flaw in the design of this thing.

    5. IF these things could hit 80-150 miles an hour, they'd also need radar detectors to keep the cops from being able to illegitimately raise revenue by ticketing me when I was well in control of the car. I guess it doesn't matter though since they TOP OUT at 20 MPH! It also doesn't matter because I won't be putting my sweet Amuricuhn ass in one of those pencil necked carts.

    6. They're open to the outside. If I want a tan, I'm going to lie on the beach, not sweat like crazy in a car. Who in their right mind would ever want a car that's open? I can count the number of times that my car windows are open here in the U.S. of A. in a year on one hand. I prefer to have my AC blasting on full if it's over 65 F because it keeps me from sweating. I also like the fact that it blows the fragrance from my car air freshener around and makes the car smell like the clean outdoors just the way mother nature intended.

    7. There's no stereo system. When I drive I like to avoid being distracted, so I put the stereo up on full volume to drown out any yammering my wife and kid might be sending my way. Whatever they have to say is unimportant and I like Kidd Rock and Eminem. They're much more entertaining.

    8. These things are funded by a communist government. I was kind of shocked to find out that Cordoba is a communist run city. I thought the only place the red menace still existed was Cuba and China. I guess we're going to have to pre-emptively strike Cordoba before they get us. They're probably getting together some terrorists to try and take down the good old U.S. of A. Our best and safest route is to probably send some troops down to South America to take care of those uppity commies in Cordoba.

    9. Open source software promotes piracy and communism. The use of open source on these "cars" probably violates IP laws in every civilized capitalist nation. If this jackass tried to start a similar business here, I can guaran-damn-tee you that he'd be face to face with CIA and FBI agents wanting to see his past affiliations.

    We've got to protect Amuricuh. Our homeland security should be the first thing on everyone's mind on the entire planet because we've got the big guns. Something goes wrong here and we get taken over by the commies, you know they'll use our firepower against all the sissy nations of the world the at turn tail at the slightest sign of trouble. Give us some respect and don't drive these monstrosities anywhere but into the ground.
  • First, as is noted by a few sane souls, some of the software is OSS, and who cares?

    Second, it's an electric car. Someone call Ed Begley, Jr. and wake me when they design and build one that is properly competitive with my SUV and cost effective.

    Third, innovation does NOT come from the marketing people, they merely put a glitzy name to the innovation. Innovation in software comes from astute programmers who "get it" as to what the customer is not only wanting, but actually needing and lacking the descript
  • Cordoba? (Score:3, Funny)

    by TWX (665546) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:58PM (#13429540)
    "...electrically powered tourist cars in Cordoba..."

    WELL, my Cordoba [allpar.com] is powered by good ol' gasoline. Chrysler four barrel 360 engines don't run on anything else. Besides, I know that mine's better. Chicks dig the Fine Corinthian Leather(tm).

    I can't believe that Ricardo Montalban went from a Cordoba to a Reliant [imdb.com] .
  • Of course Gentoos version will be a kit car; it will give you 3 options for the level you want to start with:
          * Preassembled body parts (doors, engine etc) - for the wimps.
          * Precut, cast metal ready to assemble.
          * Metal ore for the real hard cases.
  • Does anyone else find it amusing that it doesn't come with any doors, yet there's a $695 option for an Alpine stereo system? :P
  • Even on the GEM web site, there's no option for doors on this thing. I guess it doesn't rain in Treehugger Country.

  • (with appologies to Crocodile Dundee...)

    That's not an Open-Source car!
    . . .
    THIS is an Open-Source Car:
    http://65.254.46.136/oscars/ [65.254.46.136]
  • That's a fairly hefty price to pay by a tourist for 2hours in a city. I don't see the value in that. You wouldn't want to stop at any cafes/parks/restaurants along way - at USD25/hr! Perhaps these are rented to the same sorts of tourists that "do" the Louvre in 2 hours. :P

    I'd happily rent a GPS enabled PDA with all the same tourist information for USD $50/day.

    Or better still, I could buy a guide book (for all of Spain or Europe) for the same price and take a walking a tour with a local guide for a couple ho
  • To answer a couple of comments above, I'll say that the company who wrote the software is Yaco S.L. [www.yaco.es], a little OpenSource company based in Sevilla, in south Spain.

    The code itself was wrote using several free technologies such as wxWidgets+Python, SQLObject+MySQL and GPS Drive. It is supossed to be available soon, as soon as possible.
  • "Hi honey, I...er...crashed the system"

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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