A virtual Design Studio in the cloud: is this the future of collaborative design in the automobile sector?

16 April 2013: The concept of a virtual design studio for the automobile industry has been in my mind for a while now. In a modern technology enabled world that we live in, it is possible to imagine that people living across different time zones and specializing in different aspects of automotive design, can work together in a more synchronized, efficient and smarter way, if they are equipped with the right technology.

Automobile design is ‘art on wheels’, and the future of mobility depends on how well we integrate good design with the ability to produce vehicles that minimize the impact on environment, without compromising on the end result. In that context, LTD-Licence to Drive which originated as an auto blog a few years ago, has matured into a business idea that aims to be an unique and interactive automotive platform that seamlessly integrates knowledge and skills from around the world, with technology as an enabler. It is a bridge between the artists and automobile manufacturers, that can help convert brilliant automotive ideas into sustainable reality.

LTD-Licence to Drive in its current format, integrates our web based auto blog magazine (the one that you are reading) with an auto design platform LTD-Design Studio; which is still in an initial stage of development. The blog magazine remains youth focussed, and also provides an open platform for auto design enthusiasts to submit design concepts online. Over time, these designs would be shortlisted/ selected by a global jury on the basis of commercial potential and developed further at our Design Studio that would link a global team of experts on the project in areas of design, engineering, technology, construction, 3D modeling, clay/ FRP modeling, and prototype development. In short, the initial concepts & designs that were submitted by an amateur designer, will be taken to a ‘production ready’ stage, giving the world two new stars – the young designer and a brand new automobile concept. In it’s final form, this business model would give automobile manufacturers access to a retail supermarket of design concepts that can be picked off the shelf and launched in quick time. Imagine how sharply this can cut down on development time & costs on R&D, market research, engineering & HR at the manufacturer’s end. And give consumers the cars that they want today, today…not four years down the line.

As we progress, LTD Design Studio (currently working on its first design project: code named ‘Project Cub’), could well be on its way to becoming the first ever virtual car design & prototype development studio in the world in the cloud, with an offline hub located in India. But having the right technology partner is key.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to interact with the Microsoft team in India as they unveiled the Microsoft Office 365 – a cloud based office suite that is device independent and can be accessed anywhere, anytime by project team members in real time. And this convinced me further of the possibilities. They say ‘your office is now where you are’, and the Office 365 can totally transform the way we do business and collaborate with multiple sets of people simultaneously on different projects, all at the same time. No matter where we are, we can interact with our co-workers, share work space, and most importantly, share ideas. Since automotive design involves various elements like external design, interiors, ergonomics, trims & graphics, modeling, prototype development, with multiple specialists in each area; this can give better access, more flexibility and seamless collaboration, while being in complete control.

I am 15, and live in New Delhi. The editor of our blog magazine works out of Gurgaon. My design associate who worked on the initial concepts of Project Cub is a 16 year old who lives in Pune. And there are many people from the automobile industry who I interact with across locations as varied as Mumbai, London, New York, Los Angeles and Milan. I am literally living the possibilities and the times ahead look exciting. And to think that it all started with a blog. Truly, words are powerful.

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