Olli, a 3D printed, self-driving minibus

Meet Olli: The Self-Driving, 3D Printed Minibus

A new maker of self-driving vehicles burst onto the scene Thursday in partnership with IBM’s supercomputer platform Watson, and it’s ready to roll right now. The invention is the brainchild of a US-based automotive firm named Local Motors. It leverages the incredible power and precision of Watson — IBM’s flagship cognitive system. The end product is an additively manufactured minibus that can carry up to twelve people at a time.

The vehicle—a 3D-printed minibus called “Olli” capable of carrying 12 people—was unveiled by Arizona-based startup Local Motors outside the US capital city Washington.

Olli is an autonomous shuttle that uses special software developed by Local Motors to navigate its surroundings. IBM has lent a helping hand by providing the user interface for Olli — this marks the company’s maiden foray into the world of dedicated self-driving vehicles. This is a surefire signal that the computer giant is seriously impressed by what Olli can do.

The majority of components are produced with 3D printers within ten hours, and final assembly takes an hour. This makes quick, large-scale printing in cities around the globe feasible – the founders envision most of the work being carried out in so-called micro-factories. These enclosed spaces are ideal for producing 3D printed products in the most efficient way, saving valuable resources such as space, money, and materials.

Olli will be demonstrated in National Harbor, Maryland, over the next few months with additional trials expected in Las Vegas and Miami. Local Motors is also in talks to test the vehicles in dozens of cities around the world including Berlin, Copenhagen and Canberra.

Even though Google and several automakers see several years of testing before deploying autonomous cars, Local Motors co-founder and chief executive John Rogers said this vehicle is ready to go into service as soon as regulations allow it.

Olli could become the definitive on-demand transport solution of the 21st century. Selling the product shouldn’t be a problem — according to co-founder John Rodgers, “There is a long list of clients that are interested”.

Rogers said the company has had discussions in at least 50 countries where there is interest in new transportation solutions.
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