Tesla is disrupting both the transportation and energy industry with the use of Open Source Technology. They are fulfiling their mission of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy with the aid of existing technologies. Elon “Iron Man” Musk & team has done a phenomenal job pushing the envelope on what we thought weren’t possible in this decade. Let’s discuss how these guys use Open Source technology to their advantage.
Tesla who..? Elon who…?
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a Technology company called Tesla that manufactures fully BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles). They also have various energy products for both residential and commercial purposes. They produce high performance, family-oriented vehicles with the most efficient power-train. Their vehicles are well known for their long-range, extending between 230-650miles in combination with their supercharging stations. I won’t forget to mention that they produce the safest and most durable car on the market today. Their energy business provides large scale and residential products all centered around promoting the use of renewable energy. From their residential solar and battery (powerwall) storage unto their large scale backup grid solutions. Bearing the name of the great inventor, Nikola Tesla, this company has been changing the way we think about energy. Elon Musk, the current CEO has done a great job continuing the work of Nikola. He is considered to be the real-life manifestation of Tony Stark in the movie series, Iron Man. He is well-known for his disruptive business ideas such as PayPal and how they disrupted the banking sector.
Their Secret Sauce: Being Agile
Tesla Motors is the most impactful and disruptive company in the automobile sector since Ford invented the assembly line – period. Despite being a newcomer, they were able to out-pace the entire sector by being nimble while having a lazor focus on users experience. This is akin to Apple disrupting the mobile phone industry with the iPhone. I firmly believe that Tesla’s success is as a result of their ability to be a truly Agile company armed with Open Source tools. Let’s look at some supporting details:
- Their newest Gigafactory in China took approximately 168 to build. This is a major improvement from their Nevada Gigfactory both in terms of quality and development time.
- They build a machine that builds the machine. Spending their earlier years creating the tools necessary and then leveraging it over the years.
- Unlike other automakers, Tesla has a direct to consumer (B2C) model which allows them to be more responsive.
- Continuously improving their product is at the cornerstone of their business model. They’re currently at the 10th version of their feature improvement cycle.
- Driven by customer feedback. Their approach of rolling out features via beta program then pivot based on the lessons learnt has been a major selling point.
- They’ve also innovated on the legislation front. Recently in Canada, reduced the range of their cars in order to meet regulatory hurdles for its customers. Upon purchase customers can upgrade their range via software update.
- Their vehicles are designed to be portable and easy to upgrade.
Open Source Used
In the true spirit of open source, they’ve released their patents in hopes of driving innovation at a global scale. Now that is something you don’t see very often. Open source technology is the fundamental driver of their business. Have a look at their github repository, you’ll notice over 36 projects ranging from front-end to server-side. Familiar tools such as:
- Drupal – Their main website runs on the best open source CRM.
- Bootstrap – a tool/technique used to create a robust and scalable user interface.
- Go – one of the most efficient programming language currently in existence.
- Simple Web Server – A simple and portable tool web servers.
- Mysql – Another free and open-source database.
- BusyBox – A tool which provides access to various UNIT tools.
- Qt – A tool used to generate GUI based applications.
- Linux – The operating system used to build their platform. Debian to be exact.
These share open-source tools provide a solid foundation upon which they’ve been innovating. Case in point, their self-driving feature, autopilot. It uses tools such as Jupiter Notebooks, Matplotib, bash shell are some of the underlying tools.
The Open Source community has been a major push behind the companies initiative of honoring the GPL license. In recent years, the community has encouraged Tesla to live up to the obligations of releasing their source code.
Similar to how Open Source is driven by the community, they have managed to garner a similar type of support. There were a few instances when the Tesla community went all out for their brand:
- Since the company does not advertise, fans are promoting features of their products on their social media accounts (eg: Teslanomics).
- Website currently exists for users to submit features/bugs and have those be voted on – (https://moretesla.com/).
- Non-employees volunteered their time to help the company deliver cars to other customers. This is something you don’t see in any other automaker.
- Post a simple question on Twitter and you’ll have great support from community members.
What if they went the route of using only preparatory software instead of open source? Their current success and run-rate wouldn’t have been possible. The company was able to leverage open source technology which resulted in a rapid development process. Take a quick look at how fast they were able to ramp up the delivery process of their cars in the chart below.
Those figures were possible because they were able to change their solutions and the various systems on-the-fly. This type of freedom is not possible with a proprietary toolset. As a true agile company, they replicate their successes in other areas of their business, but that is for another article.
Once again Open Source rocks!
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