Tags: U.S. | inventions | automobile | manufacturers

$25 Billion Prize Could Drive Next Great Leap by Car Companies

By    |   Wednesday, 11 January 2012 06:11 PM

The answer to America’s recovery, prosperity and future lies in innovation, ingenuity and invention.

Over the past 135 years America contributed many of the inventions that have changed the world. Here are 13 that I have selected for their global impact:
  • Telephone invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell (U.S.)
  • Electric light bulb invented in 1879 by Thomas Alva Edison (U.S.)
  • Automobile invented in 1889 by Gottlieb Daimler (Germany)
  • Radio invented in 1896 by Guglielmo Marconi (Italy)
  • Airplane invented in 1903 by the Wright brothers (U.S.)
  • Assembly line invented in 1913 by Henry Ford (U.S.)
  • Television invented in 1923/27 by Vladimir Zworykin (Russia and U.S.) and Philio Farnsworth (U.S.)
  • First programmable computer invented in 1936 by Konrad Zuse (Germany)
  • Nuclear reactor invented in 1942 by Enrico Femi (U.S.)
  • First personal computer invented in 1953 by IBM (U.S.)
  • Internet invented in 1969 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA (U.S.)
  • Cell phone invented in 1973 by Motorola (U.S.)
  • Windows invented in1983 by Bill Gates (U.S.)

Notice that a great invention has come along on average every 7.25 years in the last 135 years. And take note as well that when America invents we invent for a mass market and share our technology with others.

There is no doubt that because of America’s ingenuity and invention the world has been changed for the better. Most countries on our planet have benefited greatly from Americas inventions and America has prospered like no other as a result. Our “super power” status has been attained as a direct result on our entrepreneurial superiority.

Notice that the last great leap in energy innovation was 70 years ago with the invention of the Nuclear reactor.

The World is long overdo for the next great leap in energy innovation and America must be the nation to deliver it.

The great inventions in our lifetime have come in computers. But, where are our other great inventors? How many gas crises must we endure? How much more beholden to foreign sources of fossil fuel must we be? We should want to be clean and more efficient not because its fashionable but because it makes economic and civic sense.

I submit that America needs a “big think” on energy. We need to focus government and private resources and incentives on making the internal combustion energy a thing of the past as soon as possible.

In the 1800’s with the invention of the internal combustion engine, (one that runs on fossil fuel) and the adaptation of that engine to people moving, the world was forever changed.

By 1896, an American inventor and Automobile pioneer named Henry Ford had built his first horseless carriage. Thereafter in 1903 Henry Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company. He saw that this new invention of moving people by engine had the potential to revolutionize America and the world. He knew that a people mover that most Americans could afford and was able to be powered by cheap and abundant fuel would create a new and vast market almost overnight. Henry Ford’s application of the assembly line process of car building was as revolutionary as the invention of the internal combustion engine itself.

By 1914, the assembly of a Model T was so effective that it took a mere 93 minutes to build a car.

The irony is that if Henry Ford were alive today and went to any local Ford dealer or any other car maker for that matter — and popped the hood of any gasoline powered car — he would be shocked, amazed and disappointed. He would be shocked and amazed at the computerized advancements to the gizmo’s and gadget’s to the enhancement of the driving experience and he would be disappointed that so little had changed in the 170 years or so since the invention of the internal combustion engine he manufactured.

Why is it that no revolutionary change has come to automobile operation and efficiency in over 100 years?

Well if you like conspiracy theories you would blame the oil companies. You would argue that they did not want to see the demise of the internal combustion engine because of the loss of the market used to fuel them.

On the other hand, it can be argued that we got dumb, fat and lazy. We were content with what we had and were satisfied with incidental improvements to our automobiles that were more geared to our comfort than efficiency. And the abundance of fuel at a relatively affordable price did not make replacement a priority.

Now is the time to end subsidies to oil companies and invest that money in new and sensible technologies that will help us make that next great leap in innovation.

When President Kennedy in 1961 challenged America to get to the Moon by the close of the decade, we did not have the technology to make that challenge a reality. Many scoffed, but even more were inspired. Our nation was put to the test. Government incentivized and business delivered. Look at how many of the products we use today were developed out of that effort. Even though President Kennedy was not alive to see his vision become reality, he still gets the credit for having achieved it.

Today our government loans tens of billions of dollars to automobile companies for failure. What if our government were to offer billions of dollars for performance?

I suggest that our government should offer a $25 billion tax-free prize to the American car company that can build a car that is clean (no pollution footprint in design, production and use), can achieve a range of at least 350 miles per powering, achieve 60 MPH in seven seconds or less, could be built in numerous marketable configurations and was affordable to the average American. This prize would sunset in seven years from the date of its announcement.

If America were able to accomplish such a feat the advancement would be as great — if not greater — than Henry Ford’s success in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Scraping the internal combustion engine makes sense and should be a national priority.

The $25 billion prize that America would award would come back to our treasury many, many times over in revenue produced by this giant leap in technology.

In the 1960s many skeptics bitterly critized America’s investment in the race to the moon. They argued that it was not a sure thing and therefore any public monies spent were being gambled and squandered. In retrospect, any government investment was returned through the great leaps made to computers, plastics, electronics, communications, and medicine that still today benefit every inhabitant to this planet in one way or another.

I believe that the next great advancement in the operation of the automobile is long overdue.

The country that can develop the next generation of personal transportation will not only change the world but prosper like no other.

The greatness of America has always been in our ingenuity and our ability to invent — not just for ourselves, but for everyone else as well.

America must continue to lead and today the need is to lead in the development and production of clean and affordable energy and products.

This goal is not partisan. It is simply American.

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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 06:11 PM
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