I'd like to post a couple of extensions / comments here:
1 - I'm not fixated on the "VESC", to me any CAN capable ESC that can be made commonly available to devs will do.
2 - Tridge says - "The key factor really is developer time." I'd actually say it's really a trifecta of three things that need to come together at the same time before anything meaningful can be done: Developer has Time available ; Developer has Hardware available ; Developer has suitable knowledge/skills in the area (CAN). ; Developer has motivation... the observant will notice that's 4 things, not three, whatever.
So really, What this proposal aims to try to do is resolve as many of those as we can:
Developer has Time available => we can never guarentee this, but if developer/s show an interest is recieving "free" hardware, even when it's got implied strings attached, then they are more likely to find the time than if it's just handed to them.
Developer has Hardware available => In theory, this is relatively easy to fix, just put the right hardware on the desks of the right developers - except that's hard if we don't know "right hardware". In that case, the best thing we can do is at least give all the developer/s the same hardware, and get them all engaged together around a first common goal. This will also up-skill devs on a shared-common-knowledge platform, so later on we can get different variant/s and different hardware working once the knowledge in the CAN space has been spread around and grown.
Developer has suitable knowledge/skills in the area (CAN) => To start with, most dev/s won't have the requisite knowledge, this is the issue. Making it more accessible to more devs by giving them all identical hardware, and a place to share their pain ( eg a skype group ), and work together, and get their question/s by the few who already have the knowledge is the best we can do at the start.
Developer has motivation => with a "group" publicly working to get the same hardware going at the same time, together, this is motivating. splitting devs based on their availability to get hands-on hardware, or on their initial skills, or even on their time committment/s is de-motivating. Having a strong leader, or the backing of a strong positive leader is motivating ;
so, as you can see its not as easy as you might think.