Wikipedia defines Open Source as follows:
"Open source is a set of principles and practices that promote access to the production and design process for various goods, products, resources and technical conclusions or advice."
Note the broad definition.However, in common terms, Open Source is widely perceived to be something related to software, worse still, Microsoft vs Redhat.
So, when I read about a car being made 'Open Source', I halted to read about it. At the Dutch auto-fair Auto RAI 2007, The Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment and the three technical universities of Delft, Eindhoven and Twente launched what was termed as their stimulating vision on mobility. In plain language, three universities have come together to design a car on the collaborative movement called Open Source. The car of the future is called c,mm,n (pronounced 'Common'). Essentially, that would mean, collaborative, shared designing of a car('a car' -isn't that an oxymoron in the context of Open Source?!) by car design enthusiasts. The blueprints are available for anyone to download, improve and productionize if you wish, provided, you plough back your improvements to the common knowledge pool.
Hang on, the cars aren't rolling off the assembly line anytime soon(and certainly you would never download the car from Sourceforge), we are just talking about the initial phase of this new idea. If you would like to see a visual of c,mm,n, Core 77 has a picture of the concept car showcased at Auto RAI 2007.
Car design is a complex and very expensive affair. Maybe, like Linux avatars, a bunch of talented car designers form a 'kernel', from which many derivative models can be made. Maybe the frame, the engine, the powertrain designs would evolve in public domain. That is the idea behind this Open Source Car movement.
Another related point. As cars become more complex, they carry more an more of embedded software for control, in a field called infotronics. Not sure how far how much Open Source movement really fits into that, since most of the infotronics (some estimates put it over 10-15% of overall cost of some categories of cars) is believed to be proprietary, and in a very competitive space.
Overall,c,mm,n brings the concept of Open Source to the physical domain. A very interesting idea indeed. Move over Ford, GM, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Tata. The kids are on the drawing board and they know what they are doing.