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Olli Self Driving Minibus

Updated on October 19, 2018
jackclee lm profile image

Before retiring, Jack worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.


I am a skeptic when it comes to self driving cars as proposed by Google and Tesla. However, I do see a niche market for a self driving vehicle in a restricted environment with limited speed and a fixed route. This new Olli is one such vehicle. It is designed for city tours and airport shuttles. I hope it will make it in the market place.

-Jul. 2016

updated July 2018


Local Motors based out of Arizona is a new startup car company that designed and build the Olli. The design of the Olli was made by a 24 year old engineer using 3D printing technology. This has increased the speed to market for this new product.

In addition, the Olli uses the IBM Watson technology to help with the user interface. It provides voice recognition to help guide the passengers and provides useful tips.

Finally, for the green community, this car is totally electric. It runs on rechargeable batteries and will help with reducing the pollution and green house gases of gas engines.

The minibus is monitored remotely by technicians that tracks all movements at all times.

Some Specifications

  • carry up to 12 passengers
  • maximum speed of 25 miles per hour
  • has 30 various sensors
  • uses IBM Watson for intelligent user interface with voice recognition
  • all electric power - fully charged in 4 hours with a range of 35 miles.
  • many parts are created with 3D printing

3D Printer in Design and Production of Olli

What is IBM Watson?

IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data. It was the system that beat the human Chess master Gary Kasparov and the famous Ken Jennings at Jeopardy game show.


Olli is being tested in the streets of Washinton DC, near the National Harbor, and will be available to the general public in Sept. 2016. If it works as promised, it could revolutionize a whole set of driving experience such as shuttles at airports and downtown cities and other low speed scenarios.

As a former IBM Research employee, I am pulling for the success of this product. Good luck Watson.

Update July 2018

It has been two years since my first article On Olli. I had an opportunity to visit the Local Motors office in National Harbor DC. I was a bit disappointed in my reception. I was greeted with a new hire to the company who does not seem to know too much about the company. The office seems sparse with only 4 employees sitting around. There were two Olli van sitting on the floor and a 3D printer. I was told 30% of the parts are made by 3D printing. I just missed a tour and demonstration of the Olli running around town. It was scheduled for that morning and I arrived 2 pm in the afternoon. I had signed up online for a tour a few days earlier but was never contacted. The lack of response is an indicator of the relaxed atmosphere. Things seems to be moving at a slow pace. To be honest, I am not sure about the future of this company.


3D Printer

© 2016 Jack Lee


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