13 June 2014

Tesla open-sources all of its patents and technology in bid to kill gas-powered cars

Tesla Model S aspirational shot
A few days ago, in Tesla press news that Tesla might open-source or somehow share its Supercharger technology. At that time, company representatives had only said that a patent sharing plan was in the works. In the works apparently means “We’re open-sourcing everything,” because today, Elon Musk dropped that particular bombshell. In a blog post, the CEO of Tesla Motors declared that the company’s wall of patents had been taken down “in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.”

According to Musk, the reason behind the move is to spur development of EVs and the associated technologies; the company has explicitly stated that it “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” According to Musk, Tesla began its own practice of stockpiling patents out of fear that big car manufacturers might attempt to grind the company out of existence through lawsuits instead, he writes “At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.”

Tesla Model S battery pack
The Tesla Model S’s battery pack is that big flat area in the middle, protected by ‘ballistic-grade’ aluminium.

Tesla, according to Musk, simply cannot meet this challenge alone and therefore is opening everything in the hopes of spurring further innovation and adoption in the EV market. Musk writes that Tesla’s strength and innovative business model are what will propel it forward, not any reliance on patent litigation or licensing models.

What this means will be hammered out by an army of laywers; Musk’s “in good faith” comment should be read as a statement of intent, not a binding legal document. Nevertheless, Tesla is taking an unprecedented step to encourage the open adoption of its technology and to foster further development of EVs. The move may also be a response to some of the troubles that have forced Tesla to delay the deployment of its upcoming Model X (pictured below) with its own business model facing difficulties, Musk may be moving to ensure that the wider EV movement doesn’t become bogged down in a morass of problematic technologies that companies could more easily solve together than they can fix separately.

Tesla Model X

Musk didn’t go on to identify any specific companies that might be interested in working with Tesla patents, and it’s not clear that the company is adopting an explicitly open-source model, if it will enforce some terms along the lines of his “good faith” clause, or if there are long-term projects that Tesla wants to collaborate with Toyota, Chevrolet, Nissan, or BMW on to popularize the adoption of EVs as opposed to hybrid vehicles or conventional cars. Given the scope of the announcement, however, we expect to hear more on this topic in the days ahead.

Courtesy Extremetech


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