For those of you who were enthralled with the X-Prize for personal space travel (I honestly feel that Burt Rutan's victory in that contest was one of the biggest engineering accomplishments that my generation has witnessed), you'll be happy to learn that Peter Diamandis intends to expand on the concept. While the founder of the X Prize Foundation will next bring the efforts of private parties -motivated by a nice chunk of cash and wide recognition - to the task of human genome sequencing, the intention is to bring some wide-open competition to transportation challenges as well.

Under consideration are contests for improvement in mileage and manufacturing processes. Diamandis states, "Why do we still drive cars that use an internal combustion engine and only get 30 miles per gallon? I think that we'll see some amazing achievements in this area." We can only hope so, because I sense a certain lack of urgency from within the industry.

Diamandis feels that such contests are an excellent way to break through bureaucratic strangleholds (aw, no, that'd never be the way anyone would describe the auto industry...) and "allowing brilliant innovators and geniuses to shine." Need we point out that the biggest innovations in the auto world came not from cross-functional product teams or focus groups but rather from a few dedicated individuals? To say that I'm excited about this news would be a dramatic understatement.


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