Local Motors unveils the first self-driving vehicle to use IBM Watson supercomputer

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Local Motors, a leading vehicle technology integrator and creator of the world’s first 3D-printed cars, has introduced the first self-driving vehicle to integrate the advanced cognitive computing capabilities of the IBM Watson cloud-based QA (question answering) computing system.

Unveiled during the grand opening of a new Local Motors facility in National Harbor, Maryland, the electric vehicle, known as ‘Olli’, can carry up to 12 people and is equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology, including the IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) for Automotive platform, to improve the passenger experience and allow natural interaction with the vehicle. Olli will be used on public roads locally in Washington DC, and late in 2016 in Miami-Dade County in Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Olli is the first vehicle to use 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. The platform also uses four Watson developer APIs, Speech to Text, Natural Language Classifier, Entity Extraction, and Text to Speech, to enable seamless interactions between the vehicle and 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 or specific vehicle functions. 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.

“Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue,” explained Local Motors CEO and co-founder John B Rogers Jr. “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.”

Harriet Green, general manager of IBM Watson IoT commerce and education, noted, “Cognitive computing provides incredible opportunities to create unparalleled, customized experiences for customers, taking advantage of the massive amounts of streaming data from all devices connected to the Internet of Things, including an automobile’s myriad sensors and systems. We are excited to work with Local Motors to infuse our Watson IoT cognitive computing capabilities into Olli, exploring the art of what’s possible in a world of self-driving vehicles, and providing a unique, personalized experience for every passenger, while helping to revolutionize the future of transportation for years to come.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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