21st-century hot-rodding is here, and it could be as revolutionary as Henry Ford’s assembly line

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 10:04 am EDT

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Hackrod CEO and Co-Founder Mike “Mouse” McCoy, who will participate in Siemens’ flagship U.S. technology and innovation conference, Spotlight on Innovation 2019, from 1-4 PM ET May 22 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando. 

Register for the livestream.

The driving public of the early 20th century had a lot to be excited about: Henry Ford had figured out how to build cars in record time.

So, if you were interested in a Model T, his assembly line could put it together in about one-and-a-half hours. The only catch was that your ride would look like everybody else’s.

A century later, our roads are dotted with cars of all different colors, shapes, and sizes. Thanks to advancements in technology, the mass production of automobiles has been able to accommodate mass customization for consumers. Carmakers can now use software and automation to integrate more options for drivers into the manufacturing process.  

But what if your choices as a driver were as broad as the human imagination? What if you could design the car of your dreams or even start your own car company without a small fortune? And what if you didn’t have to wait months to take that car, made just for you, for a spin out on the road?

These are some of the questions fueling Hackrod, a startup I lead that combines the spirit of old-school American hot-rodding with the gamification of engineering and design.

Hackrod is inspired by the kid who wants to take his dad’s car apart and rebuild it so it’s faster and cooler. Except, today, that kid doesn’t have to follow the same rules. He’s grown up in a “hacker” culture, where digital tools enable him to bypass traditional processes and traditional industries in favor of more innovative ones. Think about it: Kids can start a record label from their bedroom using apps like GarageBand. Or make a movie out of a backpack with just a laptop, a drone, and a GoPro.

The cars of the 20th century may have been built by visionaries, like Ford, in their factories, but the cars of the 21st century don’t have to be. A new digital pipeline is giving today’s young visionaries the keys to the same success. 

At Hackrod, we can map the last mile because of our partnership with Siemens. We needed a way to connect the cyber realm to the physical one. And it’s the end-to-end technology from Siemens that’s getting us from “game to garage.”

Here’s what that means: Using Siemens software, we can dream up full-scale cars and fully validate the vehicle performance with simulations on a computer to design a “digital twin” of the car we want to drive in real life. We can mix and match CAD components to build the custom motorcycle of our dreams and let AI and machine learning do the work to guarantee everything fits together. But our dream ride would stay virtual without large-scale advanced manufacturing technology to build it in the real world. And it might not be marketable without the technology behind video gaming engines and social networks generating new commerce digitally. These are all the dots that needed to be connected to reimagine the car factory for the modern age.

Some might see this transformation and the on-demand economics of Industry 4.0 as a “disruption” of the old, but I think it’s actually the “eruption” of the new. If we look at it this way, all sorts of possibilities for both the consumer and industry materialize.

Just the fact that a small startup like Hackrod has the computational horsepower and technology of a major automotive company is pretty empowering. Combine that with access to a 3D printer that you can drive a truck inside – or better yet, print a truck inside – and the potential to revitalize local manufacturing and local assembly really starts to take shape.

Here’s an example: Say somebody in Stockholm wants a motorcycle that was designed in California. Rather than building it in California and shipping it around the world, why not send its “digital twin” to be manufactured closer to home? It saves shipping costs, is better for the environment, and opens up new opportunities for local manufacturing.

Or take the once-struggling department store down the street that shuttered its doors due to the downturn in brick-and-mortar retail. Maybe it’s been converted into a manufacturing center. Instead of a section to look at appliances, there’s a section with a 3D printer to create them.

Out of this, we see the beginnings of a different sort of farm-to-table process for manufacturing. And we think it’s going to be the future of hot-rodding your car or bike.

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