X Prize Challenge finalists: Create the car of the future

The X-Prize Foundation offers prize money and awards for innovative technology that meets socially important technical challenges. From their blurb (my emphasis):

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit organization whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity thereby inspiring the formation of new industries, jobs and the revitalization of markets that are currently stuck.

The Foundation’s latest challenge — technology that cleans oil off water surfaces. Previous challenges range from space travel to genome sequencing.

The following Rachel Maddow clip highlights their “dream car” challenge — create an automobile that gets the equivalent of 100 mpg, has a 200-mile range, is safe and producible. The contest is down to nine finalists. Chris Hayes, subbing for Rachel, in a fascinating segment:


One reservation
— I’m not a fan of public-private partnerships; I think the public gets screwed most of the time. The beast is still the beast, after all. Despite (or because of) their non-profit status, X Prize’s challenges seem to have lots of corporate and foundation “partners”. The auto competition is “partnered” with Progressive Insurance. The oil challenge is “partnered” with Wendy Schmidt, president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, and co-founder of the Schmidt Marine Science Research Institute.

Both of these orgs have naming rights to their competition — it’s officially the “Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE” for example. Kind of like the “Frito-Lay It’s-All-in-the-Wrist Olathe Kansas Bowl”.

So this may be wonderfully generous and unselfish, but still, color me questioning. There’s a lot of patent money on the table. (Mm, money…) Still, great stuff technically.

Technically yours,


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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