3D-Printed Vehicles Are All Set To Hit The Road

The world has finally taken 3D printing seriously.

On Thursday morning, a newfangled 3D-printed bus called Olli was unveiled in Washington, D.C. This self-driving smart bus is the first of its kind and is capable of striking a conversation with its passengers.

This 3D-printed bus can ferry 12 passengers at a time, and it is equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology to improve the passenger experience. However, this is not the first 3D-printed vehicle in the world. According to 3Ders, Local Motors in 2014 unveiled a 3D-printed Strati car packed with autonomous driving and IoT technology.

The brain behind these 3D-printed vehicles is Local Motors, a vehicle technology integrator. This time, Local Motors has put in advanced cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson into this newfangled 3D-printed bus.

“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,” said John B. Rogers, Jr., the CEO and co-founder of Local Motors, at the launch on Thursday.

The 3D-printed bus was unveiled during the Grand Opening of a new Local Motors facility in National Harbor, Maryland.

“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. 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,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, according to a press release.

Olli was designed by Edgar Sarmiento, a Colombian-born Italian car design student. He will earn royalties from his winning submission.

“I tried to make this vehicle flexible to a lot of things,” he told the Verge.

“This one is a public solution for cities. It’s simple, minimalistic, to make a shape like a box, and all of this related to the use of the product. I was born in Bogotá, a big city that is going to reach 10 million people. It’s a context to start to think of problems in the city as far as transportation and to think of solutions,” said the designer of the 3D-printed bus.

Using the Local Motors open vehicle development process, more sensors will be added to the 3D-printed bus. More functionalities will be added and adjusted continuously as passenger needs and local preferences are identified, stated the press release.

Bret Greenstein, the vice president of IBM IoT, explained how Olli would use sensors and speech-to-text to learn about its passengers.

“We do everything through voice and we translate language and combine it with other data,” he said.

“We’ll try to build as much of the experience and let the vehicle know about you so it can build your experience — favorite restaurant, what dry cleaner you use. There’s things you can define in a profile, or things you can learn as you go,” Greenstein told the Verge.

Olli is the first vehicle to utilize the cloud-based cognitive computing capability of IBM Watson IoT to analyze and learn from high volumes of transportation data produced by more than 30 sensors embedded throughout the vehicle, according to the press release.

Starting today, Olli will be used on public roads locally in D.C. and later this year in Miami-Dade County and Las Vegas.

[Photo by Jae C Hong/AP Images]

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