Remember when self-driving cars were considered revolutionary? Now, thanks to Chandler-based Local Motors, we get to feast our eyes on a self-driving, interactive vehicle fit for up to twelve people.
The vehicle’s name is Olli. In addition to being self-driving and having the capability to talk to its riders, Olli is an all-electric vehicle with 3D printed parts (like seats and wheel wells). Its design, by industrial and product designer Edgar Sarmiento, was the winner of Local Motors’ 2015 Urban Mobility Challenge. From start to finish, the development and implementation of Sarmiento’s design took just about three months.
“Olli solves the first and last mile problem of transportation,” says Local Motors Public Relations Manager Jacqueline Keidel. While it won’t replace regular cars or even major city bus lines (yet), Olli is perfect for transporting groups of people to relatively close destinations in a safe and timely manner.
“Here in Arizona when it’s 115 degrees, people who take the bus may still have to walk a ways to get to their nearest bus stop,” Keidel suggests. “Public transit users can simply call for Olli using an app, and it will take them to their stop. Olli can also be used to transport students safely across college campuses or take families from the parking lot to the entrance of a theme park hassle-free. Olli is a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution for cities and organizations.”
Olli was unveiled this month at Local Motors’ new demonstration and lab space in National Harbor, Maryland. It’s the first vehicle to use IBM Watson’s IoT and cloud-based cognitive computing technologies to analyze transportation data. Though Olli can be monitored remotely by a human being, its lidar (laser radar), optical cameras, and GPS are what lend the vehicle its self-driving capabilities. Olli will collect passengers’ habits and information over time, then talk and respond to passengers while they ride. If Olli is on a fixed-route, it will follow a predetermined course and promptly respond to any unforeseen objects or interferences. If Olli is used on demand, riders will simply command where they want to go. The vehicle will then calculate an optimal route based on various external conditions. Should Olli come across a sudden obstacle, it can stop ten times faster than any human-driven vehicle.
You may have already fallen in love with Olli, but you’re not the only one. Miami-Dade County, the University of Las Vegas, and a business group in Denmark are at the top of what’s now an incredibly long waiting list. All three will be kicking off pilot programs with Olli later this year; a student research lab will be collecting data at the University of Las Vegas. From there, the three groups will determine how Olli best meets their individual needs.
And because those needs may be diverse, Local Motors is ready to customize Olli vehicles in a number of ways. “Our reliance on just-in-time and local manufacturing means that modifications and updates can be made quickly and easily,” Keidel says. “We have the ability to customize Olli to fit specific-use cases. Clients may ask for specific colors or features (for example, wheelchair accessibility), or our co-creation community may offer up suggestions on modification and improvements. The possibilities are limitless.”
Olli is relatively small right now, and its speed maxes out at 25 miles per hour. However, Local Motors reports that within the next six months or so, its co-creation community will be ready to form a new iteration of Olli.
For now, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.