Self-Driving EV bus made by a 3D Printer
It was bound to happen sooner rather than later; with technology seemingly developing at an exponential rate, the marriage of 3D printers, EV drive trains and autonomous driving was going to happen with complete inevitability. A new start-up company in Washington DC has done just that and also carried its first passengers, albeit in its own facility in New Harbor.
The vehicle is being called Olli, although there is no explanation as to why it is called that, and the first passengers were Local Motors CEO, John Rogers (pictured above), and the vehicle designer, Edgar Sarmiento; it is still a breakthrough technology and one that may well be coming to a road near you very soon. Well, at least to Miami Dade and parts of Los Angeles, where the next tests will be held.
Marketed as a friendly neighbourhood mobility solution, Olli, according to the company website, is supposed to be able to free us from the shackles of a public transport system that we have all come to hate, which of course does sound like a bit of a political manifesto. The beastie can seat up to 12 and can be summoned via a smartphone app – similar to those used by so many of the ride-sharing services such as Uber or Grab Taxi – only this time without the need to have a conversation with the driver.
Unlike other autonomous systems, Olli is reputed to be insanely easy to use. Local Motors has partnered with IBM and is using its cloud-based artificial intelligence system known as Watson. This means that Olli will have the ability to respond to the passengers in much the same way as a human driver. We wonder what the response to “are we there yet?” will be.
So, why does this new technology have an advantage over existing manufactured mobility solutions? According to a spokesperson for the company, Jaqueline Keidel, the beauty is in the size of the manufacturing facility. There will be no need for the old massive factory of yesteryear, so all of the ancillary costs associated with mass manufacturing will be reduced. Then there is the ease at which the company will be able to incorporate advances in technology into new vehicles or even to change designs to suit local laws or power train preferences.
Possibly not such great news if you work in an old-school car factory and rely on that to earn your crust, of course.