Finally, a car that’s actually smarter than you! Well, unless you’re smarter than IBM’s supercomputer Watson, who won Jeopardy about five years ago and is now being put to the streets. Watson has become a key component of Olli, the self driving, fully electric vehicle produced by Arizona based company Local Motors, which specializes in 3D-printed vehicles.
Designed as an on-demand transportation solution, Olli is a 3D-printed minibus that can be requested for a pick-up with a mobile app similar to the increasingly popular Uber. Unlike most taxis, however, these vehicles can be printed to specification in a matter of hours.
In a news release, IBM announced last Thursday that Olli has started operating on roads in National Harbour, D.C., the site of a new local motors facility.
Olli can fit up to 12 people and amazingly, can act just like a regular cab driver, even holding conversations with its passengers thanks to the Watson Internet of Things system. Wondering where to go for dinner? Just ask Olli! Watson software can even help you decide what type of cuisine you’d like.
This new self-driving vehicle was designed with consumers in mind, meant to create “a more pleasant, comfortable, intuitive and interactive experience for riders as they journey in autonomous vehicles,” says IBM.
Miami-Dade County is also interested in Olli as a means of transportation around the city, as are city officials from Las Vegas.
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“Improving the sustainability of local transportation networks as part of a wider goal to create more vibrant, livable, sustainable cities within Miami-Dade County, and improve the quality of life for residents is our top priority,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, in a statement. “We must do more to improve transit and mobility in our community and the deployment of autonomous vehicles is a big step in the right direction.”
Local Motors is hoping to have these cars on the road as soon as possible, and at this point they are just waiting for current regulations to allow it.
According to Local Motors co-founder and chief executive John Rogers, the technology is there, but “fielding it is what has been hard.”
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By “fielding,” Rogers said Local Motors can design and make the vehicles to specification and offer a service to local governments or other buyers.
“Local Motors is about selling (the vehicles) into the markets that are ready now,” he said.
Because Local Motors is building the vehicles from the ground up, and producing most components with 3D printers, Rogers argues his company has a significant advantage over other systems.
“We hope to be able to print this vehicle in about 10 hours and assemble it in another hour,” said Rogers. He also hopes to see hundreds of “micro-factories” capable of producing the vehicles around the world.
The company, which already has about 45 investors, can adjust its design based on what the consumer or city wants and do so much more affordably than traditional automakers.
“Watson is bringing an understanding to the vehicle,” said IBM’s Bret Greenstein.
“If you have someplace you need to be you can say that in your own words.”
Greenstein said IBM sees Olli as “the first complete solution” for self-driving and thinks it makes great use of Watson’s incredible computing capabilities. Because it uses “natural language” recognition, it can help create a “relationship between the passenger” and the vehicles, Greenstein said.
“A vehicle that understands human language, where you can walk in and say, ‘I’d like to get to work,’ that lets you as a passenger relax and enjoy your journey,” he said.
Yes, you’ll even be able to ask the most dreaded of backseat questions: “Are we there yet?” And you’ll even get an answer.
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