The unmistakable sound of your Uber driver’s car horn could soon be replaced by that of a self-driving, 3D printed minibus that can be summoned straight to your door via a simple mobile app. No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you — you’ve read that right.
We’ve all skimmed through news stories and blog posts showcasing some amazing examples of 3D printing technology in action, but this one promises to be a veritable game changer.
Meet Olli: The Self-Driving, 3D Printed Minibus
Every so often in the world of technology, a pioneering company develops a product that excites and surprises in equal measure. Tech news website phys.org ran a story recently on the unveiling of Olli, a self-driving minibus that promises to revolutionize the way we think about transport on demand.
The invention is the brainchild of a US-based automotive firm named Local Motors. It leverages the incredible power and precision of Watson — IBM’s flagship cognitive system. The end product is an additively manufactured minibus that can carry up to twelve people at a time.
Olli is an autonomous shuttle that uses special software developed by Local Motors to navigate its surroundings. IBM has lent a helping hand by providing the user interface for Olli — this marks the company’s maiden foray into the world of dedicated self-driving vehicles. This is a surefire signal that the computer giant is seriously impressed by what Olli can do.
The majority of components are produced with 3D printers within ten hours, and final assembly takes an hour. This makes quick, large-scale printing in cities around the globe feasible – the founders envision most of the work being carried out in so-called micro-factories. These enclosed spaces are ideal for producing 3D printed products in the most efficient way, saving valuable resources such as space, money, and materials.
Revolutionizing On-Demand Transport
The fact that a concept such as this has come to fruition is mind-boggling in itself, but the potential impact of Olli in changing the way we think about on-demand transport is just as astonishing.
Imagine a world where you could summon a bus to your house with the touch of a button on your phone. A world where instead of making mundane small talk with the driver about the weather, you can have a conversation with the vehicle itself! Conversations on such disparate topics as why Olli makes certain driving decisions, how the underlying technology of the shuttle works, and most impressive of all, customized recommendations for local amenities, based on each passenger’s personal preferences.
Olli could become the definitive on-demand transport solution of the 21st century. Selling the product shouldn’t be a problem — according to co-founder John Rodgers, “There is a long list of clients that are interested”.
The founders of Olli are confident of having the 3D printed minibus on the road once existing regulations are altered to allow for self-driving vehicles. The mere realization of this concept is a testament to the extraordinary impact of 3D printing on the manufacturing industry. Who knows what the next innovation will be?