That’s Olli with an i: Autonomous Vehicle from Local Motors Now in D.C. with IBM Watson IoT


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AM_Local_Motors_BW-978x200There’s so much delectable technology coming forth today that often just one new innovation in itself might boast a veritable buffet of features that are fascinating, futuristic, and very appealing despite a slight intimidation factor as we begin tackling the learning curve, understanding what it all means—and most of all how this will all impact us—and how it can work for us.

Let’s take the 3D printed car, for instance. This has been on the horizon since 3D printing made a splash into the mainstream, blasting headlines about a world in 3D print from the most minute items to the enormous and unbelievable as well. It’s been somewhat amusing enjoying the exaggerated view of our lives in the not-too-far-away future, as our 3D printed robot makes breakfast, fabricates our clothes for the day, and then sends us off to work in our 3D printed car to work in a super modern 3D printed office building….and on and on. Strangely though, a lot of this is actually coming into play despite a big, loud galley full of naysayers all along the way. Often insulated from the negativity, however, researchers, scientists, manufacturers, engineers, artists, and a world full of creative professionals—and complete novices—have kept rolling along—and rolling out the inventions.

Local Motors is a great example, and they’ve certainly made substantial process, outlining goals and meeting them as they move further to the public release of their road ready 3D printed Reload Swim/Sport. We’ve been following since the infamous spin in the Strati with 3D printing and car enthusiast Jay Leno to the latest on their manufacturing progress—even enjoying a sneak peek into what they do at the factory.

0000Now, we’re seeing a mind-boggling new car from Local Motors as they partner with IBM’s Watson IoT’s AutoLAB, just releasing Olli, a self-driving car powered with the cognitive computing of ‘Watson.’  The autonomous vehicle can operate, according to the Local Motors team, as either just one car or as ‘part of a network of smart vehicles all working together.’ While some sources describe it as 3D printed and Local Motors CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr. alludes to the use of 3D printing with this new technology, we don’t have the exact specs on its construction yet. (No doubt, with the background of Local Motors, 3D printing will figure in eventually if not initially.)

“Olli was born out of a challenge we held last year in Berlin where we asked our community to define a vehicle and system consistent with the needs of intelligent mobility in urban areas,” says Rogers. “The winning entry from Edgar Sarmiento became Olli, and Olli’s vision and purpose is to be the first vehicle in a self­driving system to integrate sensors, cognitive intelligence, autonomy, electro-mobility, 3D printing, and several other technologies.”

Local Motors plans on seeing Olli help make people’s lives easier—and especially those who live in high-traffic areas that can be very frustrating to navigate on a daily basis. With Washington, D.C. as the first area Olli traverses, it will interesting to see what all involved take away from the experience. The self-driving car will be seen in Miami and Las Vegas later this year.

“Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue. Olli with Watson acts as our entry into the world of self-driving vehicles, something we’ve been quietly working on with our co-creative community for the past year,” says Rogers.


“We are now ready to accelerate the adoption of this technology and apply it to nearly every vehicle in our current portfolio and those in the very near future. I’m thrilled to see what our open community will do with the latest in advanced vehicle technology.”


From the inner sanctum of Olli

As Olli—an electric car with room for twelve—pulls out onto highways in Washington, D.C., Local Motors is also busy with the grand opening of their National Harbor facility in Maryland.

“National Harbor has a history of attracting unique and experiential shopping, dining and entertainment destinations, so we are an ideal launch pad for Local Motors,” said Jon Peterson, Principal of Peterson Companies, the developer of National Harbor. “We are excited to welcome Local Motors and play a part in the revolution of the transportation industry.”

Meant to offer a venue where creativity will thrive as well as to help automotive technology to progress quickly, the Local Motors 3D printed lineup is on at the National Harbor facility (a cross between a salesroom and R&D area), along with their massive BAAM 3D printer, and a host of interactive demos for customers.

“Additionally, visitors will be able to see our engineers work with a large­scale 3D printer on vehicles we have in development. On top of that, our retail will give you the opportunity to take a little piece of Local Motors home with you,” said Rogers. “Placing this facility in the destination community of National Harbor, with all its attractions and amenities, creates a perfect learning laboratory for many of the vehicle concepts we intend to build. It will also increase our ability to hear community feedback and build the innovations they desire.”

Intended as a fully educational site, Local Motors is taking the opportunity to emphasize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for a variety of programming that will allow those visiting to get educated on 3D printing, more about technology that ‘drives’ machines such as Olli, accentuated by Watson’s Internet of Things.

Retail 2

And before the Sherlock Holmes imitations start flowing forth, let’s discuss Watson a bit—a new technology putting IBM into the mix again (a good thing for me to mention perhaps to my teenager who the other day asked, “What does that company even do?”).

“Life-changing, assistive, powerful.” These are just a few adjectives IBM wants you to associate with Watson, who is about a lot more than riding with you in the car. A new technology meant to span a multitude of industries, IBM explains the Watson Internet of Things as natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data (like articles, reports, social media postings, and more). If that doesn’t really spell it out, here are a few major exercises you can expect Watson to perform:

  • Answer customer questions – is able to learn subjects, collect supporting information, and answer
  • Extract key information in documents
  • Reveal patterns and insights in data

Medical data is a prime example where Watson will reign supreme. But today we see that within the automobile industry, this is going to be enormous as well. Siri is obviously more than meeting her match as drivers can really interact with this new artificial intelligence factor that can both analyze and then learn from transportation data, thanks to tens of sensors inside Olli (and perhaps your car soon, too), plus four developer APIs:

  • Speech to text
  • Natural language classifier
  • Entity extraction
  • Text to speech

rc8003While riding in Olli, you can speak with him about the operations of the car, directions, and questions about why he went a specific route. Even better, Olli has a concierge feature too, giving you tips on where to see, what to see, and more.

 “Cognitive computing provides incredible opportunities to create unparalleled, customized experiences for customers, taking advantage of the massive amounts of streaming data from all devices connected to the Internet of Things, including an automobile’s myriad sensors and systems,” said Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson Internet of Things, Commerce & Education. “IBM is excited to work with Local Motors to infuse IBM Watson IoT cognitive computing capabilities into Olli, exploring the art of what’s possible in a world of self-driving vehicles and providing a unique, personalized experience for every passenger while helping to revolutionize the future of transportation for years to come.”

While you might be surprised to see the self-driving car out and about so quickly, interest is substantial, and from areas like Miami—immediate. The southern Florida metropolis is currently looking into a pilot program with several of these vehicles. If you’ve spent much time in Miami traffic in recent years, you might like the idea of many of these cars on the road there, helping with a more efficient flow and less pile-ups.

“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 MayorCarlos Gimenez. “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.”

Olli will be at the National Harbor facility this summer, and there will be many curious visitors allowed to check the car out, with the very first one being there. More ‘Ollis’ are indeed being manufactured at the Local Motors headquarters in Arizona.

From a taxi to a mobile coffee tram, to a single-person electric car, options for this technology are very exciting—especially in this multi-tasking society full of drivers who might benefit greatly by leaving the driving to Olli, known as the friendly neighborhood solution. And now, all in unison: “Are we there yet?!”

For more information, check out the wonderful animated video all about Olli. Discuss this new technology further also over in the Olli the Self-Driving Car forum at

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