Joe Justice Tells the Story of Team WIKISPEED

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Faced with that prospect, Ford was realistic. Not pessimistic.

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Just realistic. It was a logistical nightmare. Ford had officially become a member of Team Wikispeed just 14 hours earlier, at 2 in the morning, when Joe Justice and a half dozen volunteers showed up on his doorstep in Hillsdale, Michigan.

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Less than two weeks before that, Ford had responded to an ad on Craigslist that was just crazy enough to pique his interest:. An appreciation of MacGyver is helpful. Oh I gotta check this out , Ford thought when he read that. His specialty was higher-end foreign makes, but he knew he could handle a Honda. He was still goosing his Honda to go faster, but it had topped out at miles per hour. A few years went by. He moved to Seattle with his new wife, and his work on the car continued, although slowly.

Gas mileage was the furthest thing from his mind, but then in , when the X Prize was announced, he realized his theories on cutting weight could also cause a car to sip gas. Of the more than teams that made it that far, 27 advanced to the final rounds at the speedway. When Justice showed up in Hillsdale in May , Bryan Ford expected to see a vehicle that needed a few last-second tweaks. Justice had, after all, been working feverishly on the SGT01 at night and on weekends for two years.

The parking brake needed adjustments. Ford expected Justice to put down his tools, thank the group for their efforts, and pack it in. It would have been the logical thing to do. Instead, Justice whipped out a laptop and started plotting how to get the work done. Remember that modularity thing, the computer-industry concept that makes it easy to upgrade individual parts of the car?

Rather than spending hours pulling apart the SGT01 to get to the suspension, the team simply unbolted the body, removed the suspension module, and began fabricating a new one. They got it done, too, just in time. The only problem was that as they finished, minutes before the deadline, Justice and another team member cut a wire in the electrical system. They finished in a tie for 10th in their division. Up until the first technical inspection, working alongside Justice and the rest of the Wikispeed team was just a diversion for Ford, an excuse to hang out at the speedway.

Without question, Wikispeed is hardly just a Justice family project. Volunteers across the country toil in their garages every night after work, testing brake designs, fabricating new bodies, brainstorming ways to make the car just a little more fuel efficient.

They dial in to a conference call Thursday nights to report progress and discuss upcoming goals. Justice demurred when I suggested the volunteers donate all that time because they believe so strongly in him. And that may be another reason Justice is so freaking upbeat: He has to be if he wants to shield the rest of the Wikispeed team—and maybe even himself—from the soul-crushing reality that launching an automotive company that can elbow its way into the industry and actually make money is about as easy as changing a tire without a jack.

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In a year-old Western Washington University grad named Craig Henderson built the Avion, an arrowhead-shaped, gas-powered car that two years later set the Guinness World Record for fuel efficiency, at He never finished a second car. Today, having fallen well short of revolutionizing the automotive industry, Henderson builds boats to pay the bills. Those two customers, by the way, were fictitious.

He still has the original Avion and occasionally drives it to the grocery store. And, because development cycles normally last up to 10 years, most people in the automotive design industry assume they must always last up to 10 years. But Joe and Team Wikispeed made their car in just three months. Test-driven design frees you. It frees you from incremental improvement and opens the door to transformation. You are, after all, only human. Great question, Paula. I was having a related conversation recently. The thought experiment was this: what if, instead of elections, our leaders were selected at random by lottery, similar to the way juries are selected?

It sounds crazy because we assume government has to be the way it is , but if you work backwards from there, what would be the implications of such a system? One would hope that -- just the way Hunger Games kids train to be tributes -- we'd invest significantly more in educating all our children on world issues to prepare them for the possibility they might one day be our leaders. Hunger Games was controlled by the author for one.

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But way too many crazies and very sick people out there no matter how much education they have. How about starting with and this is still on steroids only 2 spots on radio and TV per 60 minutes per candidate regardless of how much is in the kitty. No walk around money and get rid of the special "bribes".

Over X dollars, all contributions go to pay off the debt including value of "gifts". We were able to develop this in three months. When we compare that to the design and development cycles of traditional automotive manufacturing, the difference is two orders of magnitude and time. Two years later we have this.

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What I hope you guys are starting to get out of this is that everyone in this room is now not just on the avant-garde of the transformation of the software industry. We might be, everyone in this room, on the transformation of what hardware development, manufacturing, entertainment, the financial sector, energy and oil, government might be doing. Those same tools might apply to everything we do, and we might be seeing if the big shift is correct, the largest change since before the Industrial Revolution.

These are hardware manufacturing tasks. The tools we use to do this are all free and none of them existed 10 years ago. Applying these methods with a radically distributed team, like team Wikispeed has to, with volunteers all over the world, would have been difficult or even impossible 5 years ago. We now have team members in 18 countries. Do we have a few folks from New Zealand here today?

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We do. Everybody please thank the kiwi country for being key Wikispeed. Thanks guys very much for coming down. While he was here, he discovered team Wikispeed and has spent the last 5 weeks with us. Emre A. Hi, my name is Emre. Also we are called [inaudible ] scholars in my country. My field of study here in United States are aerospace, robotics, and composites as well as in my country, aircraft maintenance and [inaudible ]. By the way, [inaudible ] is the combination of mechanics, electronics, and computer science.

I met with [inaudible ]. We are doing a website for him. By the advice of my classmate, Shane [Stambrough ].

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Because you are applying Agile principles in our shop, I was paired with experienced people. It effected my improvement faster. Other than some technical skills, I also gained project management skills. Also Joe cares about the personal development of the team members, so a couple weeks ago Joe sent me to [inaudible ] in Seattle to learn about continuous improvement methods. Now I am here in the biggest Agile conference to learn about Agile, thanks Joe. I will contribute as a [inaudible ] programmer or computer aided design or some advice.

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You can contribute this awesome project by anything. I will carry this Agile methods to my country in order to contribute to the development of my country, especially to aviation industry. Now that I am volunteering in team Wikispeed, I believe myself more to build or repair something. I think if you volunteer a couple hours in a week, you will feel a difference in your life.

Feel free to contact me. Thank you for listening. Joe : Thank you Emre. Then we see homo neanderthals and homo erectus having a very similar tool rate of change. About , years ago, we have, through genetic randomization dating, essentially the same genetic structure as we have today.

We have Homo sapians and we also have modern chimpanzees, our closest living relative. At that time, the anthropological record indicates there was about 1 million homo sapians about about 1 million chimpanzees. Homo sapians began to change their tool set within a single generation. Homo sapians began to change their tool set to be able to extract more energy from the world around them every generation, and now every minute.