An Open Letter to the Car Industry

to: Manufacturers of Internal Combustion Cars
from: Diego
subject: Your Future Credibility

Hello Everyone,

September 2015 will go down as the year when even gearheads lost faith in your industry. Whether or not you saw it as a future platform, #DieselGate’s fallout doesn’t just imperil diesel’s market viability, but that of gasoline-powered internal combustion motors as well.

The public’s trust has been violated. By shipping cars with computer code designed to subvert emissions tests, VW breached a basic covenant that product creators hold with the communities they live in. Not all of you are at fault with #DieselGate, but at stake is your shared reputation as an industry.

Now is your moment to go ride the high country. To do what’s noble and high-minded, no matter how difficult. To do what’s right.

Here’s my suggestion: publish all of your emissions-related computer code to the public domain. Make it available for anyone in the world to poke, prod, and put through the wringer.

Upload it to GitHub. Because this is about transparency and (re)building trust, don’t allow lawyers to saddle your code with an obfuscating, bazillion-page software agreement. Instead, employ a Creative Commons license that we can all understand and trust. This particular license doesn’t allow any commercial use or the distribution of derivatives, so you’re protected there.

Worried about IP theft or public embarrassment? Those who desire your code for nefarious purposes have probably already hacked you (or will). And as for flaws, we citizens will help identify opportunities to improve your code. As Eric Raymond once said, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”. By the way, a commissioner from the US Federal Trade Commission agrees with me on that last point.

No need to publish all of your code just yet. Begin with what could lead to yet another #DieselGate, and let’s start rebuilding the trust.

That’s just one idea (and admittedly a rather radical one), but now is the time to think big and think different.

Yours in Mobility,