This 3D Printed Self-Driving Minibus Could Transform Your Daily Commute
It’s common knowledge that the world’s biggest technology companies and automakers are working on projects involving autonomous vehicles. Many have entered into partnerships to come up with a unique solution – be it Intel partnering with Alphabet’s Waymo or Uber’s tie-up with Volvo for self-driving cars.
But Local Motors, an Arizona-based company is doing things differently with IBM. It has 3D printed the world’s first self-driving cognitive shuttle, Olli.
Olli runs on IBM’s cognitive platform Watson and is manufactured in micro-factories by Local Motors, a company which believes in low-volume manufacturing and 3D printing its vehicles. The manufacturer gained popularity after it became the first company to 3D print a car.
While the technology has been used widely for architectural models, toys and the like, the Arizona-based company has been using it on vehicles to save time, resources and money as well.
The minibus can carry 12 passengers and is completely autonomous, so it doesn’t need a driver. And Watson ensures that passengers can book a ride, fix a destination, navigate to it and a lot more. Since the user interface is linked to the cognitive platform, it can provide weather and traffic recommendations and can be personalised for several use cases. For instance, the #AccessibleOlli project is a crowdsourced attempt to create the world’s most accessible mode of transport for those with disabilities or impaired mobility.
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Local Motors and IBM hope that the shared mobility solution will reduce congestion and accidents on roads across the world. Conventional mass transit solutions like trains and buses require a lot of infrastructure and don’t offer last mile connectivity. Self-driving cognitive vehicles could be the solution to this urban problem. Using them widely could mean reduced emissions as well, they said.
But a lot to be done before the technology is widely adopted, they added. For now, Olli is being tested in very specific and controlled environments like business parks and university campuses. Gina O’ Connell, director of labs and general manager at Local Motors said, “We’re doing small pilots initially to get the learnings in. It has lidar, radar sensors and cameras on board, so it’s safe. But we’re learning as we go. So that’s why we don’t put it in an environment that’s not ready for it.”