Local Motors has introduced the first self-driving vehicle to integrate the advanced cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson.
The vehicle, dubbed 'Olli,' was unveiled during the Grand Opening of a new Local Motors facility in National Harbor and transported Local Motors CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr. along with vehicle designer Edgar Sarmiento from the Local Motors co-creation community into the new facility. The electric vehicle, which can carry up to 12 people, is equipped with some of the world's most advanced vehicle technology, including IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) for Automotive, to improve the passenger experience and allow natural interaction with the vehicle. Olli will be used on public roads locally in DC, and late in 2016 in Miami-Dade County and Las Vegas.
"Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue," Rogers said. "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. 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."
Olli is the first vehicle to utilize the cloud-based cognitive computing capability of IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) to analyze and learn from high volumes of transportation data, produced by more than 30 sensors embedded throughout the vehicle. Using the Local Motors open vehicle development process, sensors will be added and adjusted continuously as passenger needs and local preferences are identified. Furthermore, the platform leverages four Watson developer APIs -- Speech to Text, Natural Language Classifier, Entity Extraction and Text to Speech -- to enable seamless interactions between the vehicle and passengers.
Passengers will be able to interact conversationally with Olli while traveling from point A to point B, discussing topics about how the vehicle works, where they are going, and why Olli is making specific driving decisions. Watson empowers Olli to understand and respond to passengers' questions as they enter the vehicle, including about destinations ("Olli, can you take me downtown?") or specific vehicle functions ("how does this feature work?" or even "are we there yet?"). Passengers can also ask for recommendations on local destinations such as popular restaurants or historical sites based on analysis of personal preferences. These interactions with Olli are designed to create more pleasant, comfortable, intuitive and interactive experiences for riders as they journey in autonomous vehicles.
"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."
There is already immediate interest in putting Olli to use on public roads. Miami-Dade County is exploring a pilot program in which several autonomous vehicles would be used to transport people around Miami.
"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 Mayor Carlos 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."
As part of Olli's debut, Local Motors officially opened its new National Harbor facility in Maryland to serve as a public place where co-creation can flourish and vehicle technologies can rapidly advance. The company's 3D-printed cars are on display, along with a large-scale 3D printer and an interactive co-creative experience that showcases what the future of the nation's capital might look like. STEM-centered programming is also being developed for the facility so that the public can learn more about 3D printing, sustainability, autonomous technology and get involved with Local Motors engineers and the company's co-creation community.
The very first Olli will remain in National Harbor this summer, and the public will be able to interact with it during select times over the next several months. The development of the cognitive rider experience in Olli is a collaboration between Local Motors and IBM Watson IoT's AutoLAB, an industry-specific incubation engine for co-creation of cognitive mobility applications. Production of additional Ollies is taking place at Local Motors headquarters near Phoenix.
Source and top image: Local Motors