Self-driving cars are set to hit the streets in Maryland, boasting a 3D printed electric motor and a talking interface. If proven successful, this innovation in transport technology could become an environmentally-friendly alternative to buses, cutting down on carbon emissions.
While the oil industry could be a tough competitor, it remains one of the biggest problems facing the environment today. Carbon emissions collect in our atmosphere and create a layer that traps heat and perpetuates global warming. This climate change is being felt everywhere, from the Arctic ice sheets to Australia, as the past year has been the warmest in recorded history.
Electric motors could change that, but it will take a practical solution which is also cost-effective. For now, only the wealthy in progressive cities can afford to trade in their gasoline powered vehicles for electric ones.
— ZDNet (@ZDNet) June 17, 2016
IBM and Local Motors’ Olli could change that with a form of public transportation which is not only environmentally friendly, but is also a self-driving car. The interface on the Olli is Watson, a kind of artificial intelligence designed to interact with humans, determining spoken language and even offering text-to-speech and vice versa. This allows for passengers to interact via keyboard or just by talking.
— Liz Burns (@LizBurnsA2) June 17, 2016
The Watson Internet of Things interface debuted in March 2015, when IBM put over $3 billion into the technology. The idea was to take the self-driving car and add a Siri-like interface so passengers can simply tell the vehicle where they want to go. It even has a troubleshooting ability enabled through common questions like, “Why are you stopping?”
The capacity of the self-driving car is up to 12, which is around the average number for buses in less populated areas. The Olli is set to debut just outside Washington, D.C., and then expand to Las Vegas and the Miami-Dade area by the end of 2016. If successful, we might see an end to buses in larger cities, eliminating carbon emissions and possibly making the technology cheaper so the common citizen can afford to switch to electric vehicles.
The Olli will also use more than 30 sensors throughout the vehicle to determine passenger count and compile data for use in refining future models for greater efficiency. Interested passengers can summon the self-driving car to their location using a mobile app, and the vehicle does the rest.
Local Motors co-founder and chief executive John Rogers has stated that he expects the Olli to be printed and assembled in about 11 hours. He hopes to reach more markets with the vehicle, but faces some issues such as local governments and regulations.
One main problem is the human factor, ironically. The Olli might not be able to prevent accidents caused by human error. If said accidents occur due to a malfunction, insurance companies won’t have a responsible party to accept fault.
Another issue is that many smaller cities and towns don’t have electric charging stations, and more electric vehicles could be a greater strain on an already crumbling U.S. infrastructure. Also, no driver means there won’t be a mechanic on hand to fix the self-driving car, and break-downs could take hours to deal with.
IBM is still attempting to make the 3D printed Olli an environmentally friendly alternative to carbon emission-based public transportation.
[Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images]