Despite Tesla’s tech-forward wow factor, it relies very heavily on the old-fashioned, even prehistoric, force of the human crowd. Its marketing plan? Word of mouth. Lobbying plan? Bread n’ butter public support. That’s what is helping Tesla win its right-to-sell battles. Meanwhile, social media protect Tesla from hacking, as in journalistic hacking. Social media also serve as porters for Tesla’s press releases. And lest we forget, public funds help the company. So this is a crowd-fed, request-taking, crowd-pleasing, stage-diving performer.
And it will one day take audience involvement to a new realm. It will develop a new tool on its website that reaches far beyond the mere “configurator.” It will put product architecture into the hands of the public and let it develop a car, baby-step by baby-step, in a series of exhaustive online referenda. Tesla will act as harbor master, operating a complex series of funnels, dams, locks and channels to steer the project downriver within feasibility and federal compliance. Regular updates will show the crowd how the project is shaping up based on the input, and that input might be restricted to a certain segment of the population — perhaps current or past Tesla owners, or shareholders. And the collaboration will continue even as the car takes to the roads. The on-board computing will be open-source to a greater degree than believed possible within the parameters of safety.
Possible outcomes, polarized for E.Z. reading:
Good — Unprecedented buzz as the design takes shape. Unprecedented buildup of pre-orders. And upon completion, collective tinkling with glee about this new Tesla as a collaborative engineering experience instead of just another Xmas toy from some business-suited Santa.
Bad – This is anti-innovation. Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” And wait a minute here — a car devised by the everyman? Wouldn’t we rather pilot a car devised by better minds than ours, in the hopes it will rub off? If the scruffy guy who lives next door — the guy who kicks his cat sometimes — if he had a hand in this car, we don’t want it.
Criswell predicts the wiki car will happen. Yes, it’s high-stakes for sure. People are notorious for saying they support a politician but then failing to follow through in the voting booth. What if they cheerlead Tesla’s wiki car, even help create it, but then forget to visit the cash register? This is no project for an auto company CEO. This is better left for someone with an entirely different constitution. Someone jaded to volatile moments, accustomed to facing critical, explosive instances that can make or break a lifetime of effort. In short, someone who launches rockets.
Criswell declares: We are all interested in the future, for that is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives …