WASHINGTON — Perhaps the future has arrived.
A driverless bus will be roaming the streets of D.C. The bus is named Olli. You can meet Olli here.
Olli is a 12-passenger driverless bus, designed by Local Motors, that, in theory, you will one day be able to summon with an app. If this future arrives and driverless vehicles are eventually permitted to shuttle passengers around, the Olli app will function similar to the Uber or Lyft apps, but the vehicle will be nothing like the Uber and Lyft cars you’re used to riding in.
For starters, there’s the whole “no driver” thing, which isn’t exactly true. No, there’s nobody physically sitting at the front of the vehicle steering. Instead, there is a person monitoring the bus’ travels remotely, just in case. But essentially, the bus is driverless.
Then there are the cameras. The entire bus is outfitted in 360-degree cameras, eliminating the notion of a blind spot. The design should enable virtually flawless driving that never results in accidents, if theory turns to practice. As Olli says, we humans “aren’t that great at this driving thing.”
Also, the bus is equipped with IBM Watson technology, so passengers can speak to the bus and it will respond. If you wish to go to the National Cathedral, you can say, “Olli, take me to the National Cathedral,” and, theoretically, Olli will do so. According to IBM, there is very little you could ask Olli that the vehicle won’t be able to answer.
“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.”
Finally, Olli is electric, so it’s far cleaner than a standard, gas-powered public bus.
The vehicle debuted during the grand opening of a new Local Motors facility in National Harbor, Md., on Thursday, by transporting the company’s CEO, John B. Rogers, Jr., and vehicle designer Edgar Sarmiento into the facility. It is already on the streets of the District, and it is scheduled to take the streets of Miami and Las Vegas later this year.
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