Self-driving minibus on its way to Miami

Olli wants to join Miami-Dade County's public transportation fleet


MIAMI – The next thing Miami commuters will be hearing from an intelligent self-driving minibus late this year is "Hi, I'm Olli." 

In Miami, Olli will also be saying, "Hola, Soy Olli," thanks to IBM Watson, a cloud-based cognitive computing system that can classify languages. Passengers will also have access to a mobile phone app.

"Cognitive computing provides incredible opportunities to create unparalleled, customized experiences for customers," Harriet Green, a general manager at IBM, said.

The electric-powered minibus fits about a dozen passengers. It has an interactive user interface capable of answering questions, offering information and making recommendations. It was already rolling between 5 to 25 mph Thursday in Washington, D.C. 

IBM partnered with Local Motors, an Arizona-based car maker. To create Olli, they also partnered with Roding, a German auto tech company, Siemens, a German engineering company, Phoenix Wings, a London-based tech consultant, and Best Mile, a Swiss robotics institute.  

"Olli with Watson acts as our entry into the world of self-driving vehicles," Local Motors co-founder John Rogers said. "(It's) something we’ve been quietly working on with our co-creative community for the past year."

Arizona-based car maker Local Motors used 3-D printing technology to produce the minibus at a low cost, Rogers said. 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez welcomed the minibus as part of a pilot program. Olli is still in the beginnings stages, so Local Motors is assuming liability if a crash occurs. Also, the price per minibus hasn't been set. 

"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," Gimenez said. 

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