IBM And Local Motors’ “Olli”: An Autonomous Bus You Can Talk To

"Olli", Self-Driving, Talking Bus: Image Credit (USA Today)

Local Motors, Arizona-based automaker, has teamed with IBM to create a vehicle that is truly “smart”. Many new vehicles are beginning to offer a voice option of some sort. However, none have made waves in disrupting the market, as the technology is not there yet, and users don’t really get involved with it. “Olli” is IBM’s answer to this problem.

Inside Olli
Inside Olli

Voice recognition technology in today’s cars is the type that uses standard phrases and prompts that don’t work very well. Most are pre-programmed, with “canned” responses for typical questions. Although there has been voice technology on most phones, tablets, laptops, and search engines for some time now, people aren’t using most of it very frequently due to the bugs and lack of intuitiveness.

Apple’s Siri has been the first and foremost voice control technology to beat the odds and begin to change the trends. Microsoft Cortana, Google Now, and Amazon Echo Alexa are all creating very healthy competition for Siri and will all likely make compelling moves into the auto industry in the near future.

Olli offers a whole new level of auto voice technology, much like the above platforms. It is a self-driving EV bus that uses IBM’s Watson platform, allowing it to exchange “human-like” dialog with its 12 riders. It has the ability to understand and respond to complex questions. This is because Olli uses four of Watson’s APIs: Speech to Text, Natural Language Classifier, Entity Extraction, and Text to Speech. It also uses cloud-based cognitive computing in order retrieve important information for drivers quickly.

Local Motors CEO John B. Rogers explained:

“Olli offers a smart, safe, and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue. Olli with Watson acts as our entry into the world of self-driving vehicles, something we’ve been quietly working on with our co-creative community for the past year. We are now ready to accelerate the adoption of this technology and apply it to nearly every vehicle in our current portfolio and those in the very near future. I’m thrilled to see what our open community will do with the latest in advanced vehicle technology.”

Olli is already being used in Washington D.C. on public roads and will soon debut in Las Vegas as well. A pilot program is being developed in Miami-Dade County to use a fleet of Ollies for public transit. Local Motors is already building vehicles for this venture.

Many people have concerns about cars that drive themselves. The hope is that if the vehicle can talk to you, it may make the transition more comfortable.

Olli is opening a huge door to this new market. With the advances of Apple’s Siri, along with IBM always being one of Apple’s number one competitors, one can only assume that the Apple Car will be Olli’s nemesis. The application by Apple of such technology in Didi Chuxing, China’s number one ride sharing company, could prove monumental.

Check out the videos introducing Olli.

Source (Digital Trends)

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