3D printing-friendly automaker Local Motors, which we enjoy writing about often, has been busy building their new microfactories in Berlin and Tennessee, both of which will be producing the company’s self-driving, 3D printed Olli vehicle. While it’s not the first autonomously-driven vehicle the company has worked with, the Olli, which we had the chance to check out at IMTS 2016, certainly seems to be the one that could be the most useful in an urban setting. The electric, fleet-operated vehicle uses overlapping sensors to drive itself, cuts back on noise pollution and emissions output, and riders can use an app to find existing routes and locate an available Olli to share with other commuters. The Olli debuted this summer, with commuters in Washington, D.C. hopping aboard. Now, according to a Local Motors blog post, one German client is already using Olli to serve up to 100 riders a day!
The private 55,000-square-foot Euref Campus, located in the heart of Berlin, hosts over 2,500 employees, from more than 100 companies, in the energy, mobility, and sustainability industries. It’s grown tremendously – back in 2011, there were only 650 employees working on campus. The campus is close to a bustling, cultural neighborhood, and a networking hub and test bed are available for the companies to use as they work to “develop the latest technologies ready to change the world.” It sounds like Olli will fit right in! One of the companies that calls the Euref Campus home is German railway company Deutsche Bahn, which recently attended the Materialise Kolloquium 4.0 conference in Essen, Germany.
Deutsche Bahn partnered with its research and development arm, InnoZ, and Local Motors to bring Olli to the Euref Campus. The two companies go way back, even before Olli was designed; InnoZ helped Local Motors secure judges for the Berlin Urban Mobility Challenge 2030, which is where the idea for Olli came to be. InnoZ has launched a six-month pilot program for Olli, transporting employees around the Euref Campus, while also educating them on self-driving technology and its many applications.
The vehicle will operate on campus on weekdays, from 9 am to 5 pm. At the end of the six-month pilot, InnoZ and Local Motors will evaluate the program, and then work “to extend the length and scope of the pilot, utilizing multiple Ollies to connect the Euref Campus to the nearest Deutsche Bahn train stop.” The Olli has already undergone one major change – while it operates as part of the official Deutsche Bahn transportation system, the vehicle has taken on the company’s colors and branding. As Olli drives employees around the campus, its self-driving software is constantly “learning” by gathering data from real-world situations it encounters; for example, how to best make a tight turn, or how to appropriately slow down if a person happens to walk in front of it.
According to a translated article written by InnoZ on the Euref Campus website, Deutsche Bahn has also been testing a similar autonomous vehicle from EasyMile in Leipzig. Deutsche Bahn has already planned its first pilot projects for autonomous vehicles operating in public spaces for later this year.
Dr. Rüdiger Grube, the Deutsche-Bahn chairman, said, “Autonomous vehicles will revolutionize the mobility market, as customers will be able to use public transport services when they need it. A new large market for individual public mobility is emerging. With our test operation, we want to demonstrate that we can already bundle our great know-how as a mobility provider with new technologies so that the customer benefits from it. Now it is important to gather important experience experience in the use of autonomous vehicles in public transport in order to continue the pioneering role in Germany.”
The partnership with Deutsche Bahn couldn’t come at a better time, as Local Motors is getting ready to “ramp up production and build dozens of Ollies this year.” Obviously, it’s a mutually beneficial opportunity, as Deutsche Bahn seems prepared to fully jump on board with autonomous vehicles. Discuss in the Olli forum at 3DPB.com.