Local Motors (of 3D-printed car fame) has again teamed up with IBM and Watson IoT for Automotive to create Olli, a self-driving electric mini bus that can carry up to 12 passengers. And yes, it’s also built using 3D printing based on the boxy, versatile contest-winning design of Edgar Sarmiento.
Not only can Olli drive passengers where they need to go, but it can answer questions and interact with those passengers. It uses Watson to answer questions about how Olli works, where passengers would like to go, and what Olli’s doing at the time. Riders can be as specific as asking for “the closest restaurant that serves Mexican food,” according to a press release, or as general as asking for the weather forecast.
Olli uses four of Watson’s development APIs to interact with passengers: Speech to Text, Text to Speech, Natural Language Classifier, and Entity Extraction. It also uses cloud-based computing to analyze the data gathered by the 30 onboard sensors and learn from that data. Those sensors pick up not only on environmental cues that enable autonomous driving but also, as a part of the Internet of Things, Olli can use streaming data from connected devices.
For now, Olli is used on public roads in the Washington, DC, area near the new Local Motors facility in National Harbor, MD. More Ollies are being built at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix. Those Ollies could be put into use in Miami, where officials are exploring a pilot program that would use several Ollies to transport passengers around the south Florida city.
In design and interaction, Olli’s mission is to make autonomous riding fun, safe, and sustainable. And, apparently, adorable.