In partnership with IBM‘s supercomputer platform Watson, Arizona-based Local Motors has introduced a 3D-printed, autonomous on-demand minibus called Olli. “Starting today, Olli will be used on public roads locally in (Washington) DC, and late in 2016 in Miami-Dade county and Las Vegas,” IBM said in a statement on Thursday. The vehicle was unveiled on Thursday during the opening of a new Local Motors facility in National Harbor, Maryland, and transported the automaker’s CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr., along with vehicle designer Edgar Sarmiento from the Local Motors co-creation community into the new facility.
The electric vehicle, which can carry up to 12 people, is equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology, including IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) for Automotive, to improve the passenger experience and allow natural interaction with the vehicle. “Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue,” Rogers said. “Olli with Watson acts as our entry into the world of self-driving vehicles, something we’ve been quietly working on with our co-creative community for the past year,” he pointed out.
Olli is the first vehicle to utilize the cloud-based cognitive computing capability of IBM Watson IoT to analyse and learn from high volumes of transportation data, produced by more than 30 sensors embedded throughout the vehicle. “This is the world’s first autonomous on-demand shuttle,” Justin Fishkin, Local Motors’ Chief Strategic Officer, was quoted as saying by The Verge on Thursday. “So basically you call it on an app and it picks you up just like Uber and it will talk to you,” Fishkin explained.
Passengers will be able to interact conversationally with Olli while traveling from point A to point B, discussing topics about how the vehicle works, where they are going, and why Olli is making specific driving decisions. Watson empowers Olli to understand and respond to passengers’ questions as they enter the vehicle, including about destinations or specific vehicle functions. Passengers can also ask for recommendations on local destinations such as popular restaurants or historical sites based on analysis of personal preferences. These interactions with Olli are designed to create more pleasant, comfortable, intuitive and interactive experiences for riders as they journey in autonomous vehicles, the IBM statement said.