Olli, self-driving vehicle, photo: Rich Riggins/Feature Photo Service for IBM

Self-driving vehicle Olli ‘chats’ with passengers

Local Motors has introduced the first self-driving vehicle that has advanced cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson. The Watson system is able to chat with people, allaying their fears about being driven around a city by a vehicle with no driver, offering information about the local area, or talking to travelers about their destination or journey.

The vehicle, named ‘Olli’, was unveiled during the Grand Opening of a new Local Motors facility in National Harbor in June and transported Local Motors CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr. along with vehicle designer Edgar Sarmiento from the Local Motors co-creation community into the new facility. The electric vehicle, which can carry up to 12 people, is equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology, including IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) for Automotive, to improve the passenger experience and allow natural interaction with the vehicle.

Congnitive computing capability

Since the beginning of this summer Olli is used on public roads locally in Washington DC, and late in 2016 in Miami-Dade County and Las Vegas. Olli is the first vehicle to utilize the cloud-based cognitive computing capability of IBM Watson IoT to analyze and learn from high volumes of transportation data, produced by more than 30 sensors embedded throughout the vehicle.

Using the Local Motors open vehicle development process, sensors will be added and adjusted continuously as passenger needs and local preferences are identified. Furthermore, the platform leverages four Watson developer APIs to enable seamless interactions between the vehicle and passengers.

Interactions with passengers

Passengers will be able to interact conversationally with Olli while traveling from point A to point B, discussing topics about how the vehicle works, where they are going, and why Olli is making specific driving decisions. 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.

Author: Marieke Van Gompel

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